Are You Counting on Wright Returning in 2017?

david wright

With the 2016 season entering the home stretch, the New York Mets are still in contention for a playoff spot. Not because of anything the offense is doing, but as Ken Davidoff of the New York Post put it, the rest of the NL is playing down to their level.

Much has been made about the Mets’ inability to string together back to back wins for well over a month now. But during this period of futility for the Mets, it’s not like any other team has really ran away with it in the National League other than the Chicago Cubs in the Central.

Ten games behind the Washington Nationals may seem like an ocean away, but a significant hot streak like winning 12 of the next 16 would bring the Mets back home on August 26 with 10 games to play against division rivals including three against the Nats.

Now I’m not saying any of this will happen. At the beginning of the season, I predicted the Mets would finish 2nd in the NL East and secure the top wild-card spot; a prediction that still seems just as plausible now as it did in March. Among the the five team scramble for both wild cards, it’s still a free for all and the Mets are still very much alive.

There is hope in the form of a lineup that can soon feature a healthy Jose Reyes and Yoenis Cespedes to go with Jay Bruce, but will it be too late? And even if that does happen, will it change the potential record-setting ineptitude of this offense with runners in scoring position?

While this season sorts itself out over the next five weeks, let’s also turn an eye towards 2017, something I think Sandy Alderson was doing when he pulled the trigger on Jay Bruce. The deal meant two things:

One, the front office no longer believed in Dilson Herrera, who they could have called up on many occasions to help this anemic offense and didn’t.

Two, Bruce serves as a viable offensive fallback next season if Yoenis Cespedes opts out, a facet that Alderson admitted made the former Reds slugger so desirable.

What about our other power sources for next season? Yes, there’s Lucas Duda returning at first base, presumably healthy and ready to go. But it’s the player at the other corner position that concerns me and gave me pause about the future.

david wright

Kenny DeJohn of Newsday covered David Wright on Monday, who spent the morning visiting with kids at a Day Camp in Merrick, Long Island. He told reporters on hand that he hopes to be back as the Mets third baseman in 2017 and that he’ll be done in a couple of years.

“I’m moving around and feeling a lot better than I did,” Wright explained. “So hopefully I’m back next year. That’s what my goal is.”

“Now it’s just a matter of being patient and allowing the screws and the plate to take place and really fusing together so hopefully there are no more problems in the future.”

Am I the only one hoping this was Wright’s injury-marred final season?

I mean, I completely understand not announcing that now, especially in front of cheerful elementary school kids, but am I alone in wanting to watch a press conference sometime early in the offseason where Wright admits that the injuries are just too much?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to remember our captain as a side-arming fielder who hits just above his playing weight and slowly fizzles away into obscurity. More importantly, as a father I want Wright to be able to lift his newborn daughter and chase her around the house as she grows up without any pain.

The GM in me was already wondering whether the team could go to Port St. Lucie in 2017 with Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores to fill 2B, SS and 3B – or do you go after Ian Desmond and see if he can play third? Or Justin Turner?

How cheap and reasonable is it to re-sign James Loney? Do you send Michael Conforto to Winter Ball to learn how to play first base as a backup plan for Duda? If the Nationals are really going to let Wilson Ramos make it to free agency, do you outbid them for the 29-year old catcher? And what can you get for Curtis Granderson and the $15 million he’s still owed?

I was having a little fun running through all these different possibilities for next Spring, because in my mind I figured David Wright wasn’t coming back. We can’t count on him for any future plans because it’s too much of a question mark. We already made that mistake in 2016 and we still haven’t found a regular third base solution – platoon or otherwise – since we lost Wright.

Sadly, what we did see from Wright during his brief stint this year, was that he doesn’t have the arm to play third base anymore and his bat couldn’t catch up to a major league fastball. He’s owed another $67 million, money he can earn as a team ambassador, a roving instructor, or a coach at this point. But he can’t earn it on the field… And to go forward with a different mindset is foolish.

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A Glimpse As To Why Collins Should Go

For a Mets fan living outside the Tri-State area without the disposable income to spend on the Extra Innings package, I’ve survived via the MLB At-Bat app and listened to Howie Rose and Josh Lewin all summer.

A few weeks back, MLB ran a promotion with Wendy’s. Post a picture with a Frosty and get a free subscription to MLBTV for the remainder of the season. I jumped and my app was upgraded, bringing Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling into my home.

As wonderful as this has been, it’s also allowed me to witness some things in real time.

jose-reyesAs Jose Reyes goes, so goes the Mets offense – As the leadoff hitter, he sets the tone for the team but when he struggles, it seems to bring everyone down. This has happened before. In 2007, he hit .135 (5-37) with just two walks in the final eight games, seven of which the team lost as they collapsed down the stretch.

He wasn’t as bad the following season, hitting .258 (8-31) with two walks in the final seven games, but the results were the same. I’ve watched Major League too many times and have Lou Brown’s doctrine embedded in my mind every time Reyes pops it up.

With your speed, you should be hitting the ball on the ground and be legging them out.

Asdrubal Cabrera is the team MVP – Yes, Yoenis Cespedes has the numbers and the big home runs, but Cabrera has been a linchpin towards the top of the lineup all season. He’s quietly having his best season since 2009 when he hit .308 with 42 doubles as a member of the Indians.

While he doesn’t have as many doubles (30), his 23 home runs make up for that and account for his career-best slugging percentage of .485. But two of his biggest additions have nothing to do with him at the plate.

cespedes cabrera

IMO, Cabrera’s defense at shortstop has been outstanding. He entered the season with connotations like this from Mark Simon of ESPN – “Cabrera does not rate well by advanced defensive metrics.” This clearly still holds true since his Defensive WAR is 0.9, but his DRS (Total Defensive Runs Saved runs above average) is -8 and UZR/150 (UZR runs above average per 150 Defensive Games) is -6.1.

Nevertheless, it’s been way better than Wilmer Flores and/or Ruben Tejada.

The second thing is his greeting for anyone returning after a home run. I look forward to the helmet flip to the bat boy more than the blast, something that shows a unified dugout and one that seems to be having fun despite all that’s gone wrong this year. Speaking of which…

Terry Collins showed why he should be fired last night – I know, I know, it’s easy to call for his head after a loss. There are plenty of us who have been calling for it after a win and during last night’s 7-3 loss to the Marlins, he showed everyone why.

In the second inning, Bartolo Colon was getting tagged. Darling could clearly see that Big Sexy didn’t have his best stuff as each Marlin hit 85 MPH fastballs all over the field. Gabriel Ynoa started warming up and I just hoped they could escape the inning.

Colon struck out Destin Hood, at-bat number 15 for the 26-year old, and got out of the inning. He was scheduled to bat second in the top of the third and I was already wondering who Collins could use to pinch hit that wouldn’t be needed later on. Maybe Kevin Plawecki?

Needless to say, I was shocked when Colon waddled up to the bat and quickly swung and missed three pitches. This goes to Collins’ undying belief in his veteran players, regardless if that derails the progression of quality young players behind them.

Curtis Granderson has been the biggest beneficiary and it took too long before Jay Bruce found the bench, but on this night it meant sticking with a starter who clearly didn’t have it. Colon nearly gave up a towering home run to Justin Bour before allowing a run-scoring triple and making way for Ynoa.

Ynoa, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo are not what Collins left Port St. Lucie with back in March. The fact that he was working without four of the five members of the Opening Day rotation is admirable. That the team hasn’t collapsed under the weight of losing everyone around the infield except Cabrera is impressive.

Something has to happen with the sudden gluttony of starting pitchers. With everyone healthy, the team will have Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zach Wheeler, Lugo, Gsellman and hopefully Colon as a failsafe. I don’t trust a man who’s twice allowed a young pitcher to dictate whether they should take the mound overseeing a season where the majority of the staff will either be coming off injury or pitching off their longest season to date.But that is now and next year is the future.

Terry, Collins

The future of this team is found with the same young players that helped mount the comeback on Saturday. T.J. Rivera deserves to get a shot as the right-handed professional hitter that Daniel Murphy was. Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto can’t prove anything more in the Pacific Coast League and Gavin Cecchini may need to learn another position or be traded, but something has to happen.

At my core, I’m a positive thinker. So when the Mets make the playoffs, Collins will receive a lot of credit and I’m sure earn a top 5 finish for NL Manager of the Year. Hopefully that acclaim will make it easier for him to find a new position, either within the organization or with someone else. Just so long as it’s not inside the Citi Field dugout.

These Kids Are Alright: Montero, Lugo, Gsellman Come Through For Mets

Lugo seth

From June 22 to August 3, Detroit’s rookie right-hander Michael Fulmer had five quality starts while winning seven consecutive starts. With the Mets swooning and Yoenis Cespedes dealing with injury, it was an opportune time for some media outlets to write about the young starter Mets GM Sandy Alderson gave up for the slugging left fielder.

Trade deadline stories, like one by Zach Braziller of the New York Post, quoted Alderson who was commenting on the state of Mets trade assets. “We did trade like 11 or 12 pitchers last year so we don’t have that inventory.”

That might lead the average fan to believe the minor league crop of arms was depleted, and with the Mets announced they would be relying upon several rookie pitchers to face the Cardinals and Marlins, it didn’t instill much confidence in how the Mets would fare in two very critical series.

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweeted last night: “The Mets are getting by without their primary pitchers,” and that is true, but it started before Terry Collins lined up Robert GsellmanRafael Montero and Seth Lugo to toe the rubber over the past three days. You have to go back to August 25 when they turned to Jon Niese in St. Louis.

robert gsellman

When the lefty, who’s best result in 2016 was producing Neil Walker via a preseason trade, went down via injury, the minors to the majors mound movement began. And the results have been much better than what anyone could have imagined.

 Pitcher Innings Hits Runs (Earned Runs) Strikeouts Walks

8/23 – Mets 7, Cardinals 4

Gsellman (1-0) 3.2 2 0 (0) 2

3

8/25 – Mets 10, Cardinals 6

Lugo (1-2) 5.0 2 0 (0) 5 3

8/28 – Phillies 5, Mets 1

Gsellman (1-1)

6.0 7 4 (4) 5 1
8/29 – Mets 2, Marlins 1 Montero 5.0 2 0 (0) 3

6

8/30 –Mets 7, Miami 4 Lugo (2-2) 6.0 5 2 (2) 4

1

This doesn’t include Josh Smoker, who’s last three outings on consecutive days has produced six strikeouts and just one hit in three innings. So maybe the Mets’ minor league system isn’t so starved and depleted as many have said, despite all the trades from last year and this season, including trading pitcher Akeel Morris for Kelly Johnson.

rafael montero 3

Gsellman, Lugo and Montero have each stepped up at a critical junction of the season for the Mets who are fighting for their chance at another postseason.

“It’s been very interesting to see,” Curtis Granderson said about the three Mets youngsters who stepped into some big shoes and exceeded expectations. “Obviously injuries are going to be a part of it, and unfortunately, we’ve had quite a bit of them. But, these guys have been doing a great job.”

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All We Got Iz Us

Published on Mets Merized Online on July 30, 2016

kevin mcreynolds

I was a teenager in the Tri-State area in the late 80s, early 90s; meaning I grew up in the midst of what is clearly the Golden Age of Rap or when Rap (Grandmaster Flash, KRS-ONE, Run DMC, Public Enemy) became Hip Hop (A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Wu-Tang).

I know this era well because the baseball team I loved was painful to watch and routinely gave reason for a young fan to allow his heart and mind to wander to other things like playing stickball, buying a cassette single for a Walkman and thinking about girls that wouldn’t pay him any attention (for good reason).

In 1993, a trio from Queens released an album that immediately cemented their place in a music conversation that was focused on the West Coast. ‘Throw Ya Gunz‘ and ‘Slam‘ got Onyx play on boom boxes on the street, radio stations like 98.7 Kiss FM and HOT 97 and the video played on regular rotation on both BET and MTV.  It went multi-platinum (back when that truly meant something) and both Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz used this fame to earn Hollywood acting credits once the group disbanded.

What does any of this have to do with baseball and the New York Mets? Well, Onyx’s second album was entitled ‘All We Go Iz Us“. The highest-charting single was entitled ‘Last Days‘, a song that will sound familiar to anyone who’s watched the rap battle scenes in  8 Mile.

But it’s a better description of what Sandy Alderson seemingly looks at when thinking about the trade deadline and the team that’s on the field. The team he’s put together that has actually been hitting the baseball for the past month.

Unfortunately, the numbers don’t lie.

Batting Average On-Base Percentage Slugging Percentage
May .211 .287 .381
June .235 .301 .373
July .259 .324 .442

They’re pretty abysmal, but they are trending in the right direction. And the pitching staff has lived up to the preseason hype. To borrow an idea I heard from Mike Silva on Talkin’ Mets, to this point the Mets have avoided real injury showcased by the fact they’ve only needed six starters to amass the third best ERA in MLB, 60 quality starts and a bullpen with a 3.10 ERA and the league lead in saves.

Yes, they should have the outright lead if Jeurys Familia was a perfect 39-for-39. Yes, Larry Brooks of the New York Post is right that Terry Collins allowed his players to manage him on Thursday, resulting in a second straight blown save.

hansel robles

But a general manager can’t allow daily results to alter a long-term plan. There isn’t much in the minors because it was drained last year to get Yoenis Cespedes, so trading away the few pieces left for a middle reliever sounds good but makes little sense when Hansel Robles is pitching well. The 25-year old has a 0.00 ERA over 11.2 innings in July and a 2.52 for the season.

The 25-year old has a 0.00 ERA over 11.2 innings in July and a 2.52 for the season. Robles and Jerry Blevins (0.00 ERA in July over 5 innings, 2.00 for season) can handle the seventh, Addison Reed has proven he owned the 8th inning and I believe Familia will return to form. So what reason is there to bring someone else in?

Bringing in Jonathan Lucroy seems to be the only thing worth doing and it makes a modicum of sense. It’s a win-now move, especially with the emergence of Rene Rivera as a defensive backup catcher that has the confidence of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom to call a good game.

The rising star that is Amed Rosario relegates Gavin Cecchini to tradeable, so I’m sure Alderson’s talks with the Brewers include the 22-year old SS and Travis d’Arnaud, our oft-injured catcher. My hope is he doesn’t budge farther than that, but how much of the Brewers interest is honest as opposed to just driving up Lucroy’s price, per a tweet from Adam Rubin of ESPN?

But as a fanbase, I think we need to get comfortable with the idea that All We Got Iz Us. It’s not something exciting, like an opposite-field single with runners in scoring position, but it’s the smart thing to do. Alderson has to be thinking not just about this year, but the next three.

Draining the best for Cespedes made sense then and it makes sense now. To skim off the top to get a power-hitting catcher that’s signed cheap (just $5.25 million) for next year makes sense.

But to delve deep into a slim talent pool just to appease the back-page? That would be counter-productive, especially when he’s going to need to retool this offseason at 2B (Dilson Herrera and who else?), 3B (Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores or trading for someone like Evan Longoria?), CF (Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo or trading/signing someone else) and RF (Does Curtis Granderson go into his last year as the 4th OF that he should be?).

I haven’t given up on this season with what the team has right now. I’m also hoping Alderson was a fan of early 90s hip hop as well.

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Greenies, PEDs, and the Grueling 162 Game Schedule

Published on Mets Merized Online on July 19, 2016

Jim Bouton Releases "Ball Four: The Final Pitch"

I first remember reading about ‘greenies’ in Ball Four, Jim Bouton‘s eye-opening autobiography about the everyday grind of a ball player. He mentioned how ‘greenies’, better known as amphetamines, were readily available and used by players.

I was a teenager at the time and compared it to getting a Star in Super Mario Brothers – it made the character better for a time, but it slowly faded away. While it was a great experience, I couldn’t imagine playing the whole game like that but that wouldn’t stop me from searching for a Star for a quick pick-me-up.

OK, that’s a poor analogy of the influence of something that, according to Phillip Smith of AlterNet, has been inbred in the baseball culture since soldiers returned from the battlefields of World War II and took the same stimulants they were provided by the military.

Harold Friend of Bleacher Report mentioned the military connection to greenies, ‘restorative’ drugs to overcome the effects of fatigue. In 1985, retired outfielder John Milner testified in a federal court that he was first introduced to a liquid amphetamine from a bottle he took from the locker of the immortal Willie Mays when he wore a Mets uniform.

From a Los Angeles Times Newswire report,

“Management wasn’t giving me greenies or red juice or speed–Willie had the red juice,” Milner said. He added, however, that he had not seen Mays take amphetamines.

Mays, who joined the Mets in 1972, said that his locker “was an open book. Anybody could go into my locker because I never had anything to hide.”

Why this part of the sport’s history seems to be hidden in plain sight is beyond me. At the end of the day, baseball asks athletes to play at a high level for 162 games in just 183 days. Throw in the demand of the modern travel schedule, days games in another city after a night game and it’s easy to see how the idea of returning to a 154-game schedule looks appealing.

rob manfred

David Lennon of Newsday laid out the facts in a recent column but didn’t pick a side because there really isn’t a side to pick. Less games means less money, a loss that the players union won’t be quick to sign off on. Add to that the broadcast television masters who will demand something to make up for the lost games.

Finding a happy medium for a 154-game season (or any number less than 162) between all three parties – MLB, the players union – is something that will happen with the CBA expiring in December. But the happy medium might be looking the other way when it comes to greenies.

While it’s not the happy or healthy answer that plays well with mothers, concerned citizens and the like, it is a realistic answer that has historical data behind it – the years and years of players using greenies and performing 162 times a year in 180 days at a high level.

Pro sports probably shouldn’t be what Daniel Tosh wants, but where were reporters like Murray Chass of the New York Times when it was happening in front of their eyes? He wrote about greenies in a Mike Schmidt book a decade ago and scolds commissioners Peter Ueberroth and Bud Selig for willingly turning a blind eye to something that Mike Schmidt says has ‘been around the game forever.”

Rob Neyer of SB Nation questioned Chass for holding his Hall of Fame vote from suspected players without making a “meaningful distinction between the steroids of the 1990s and the amphetamines of the 1970s and ’80s (and ’90s).”

The biggest distinction I can make from all of this is this. There was little talk about shortening the seasons when players were using greenies. Now that MLB is policing down on the drug, it’s something the commissioner and player’s union president are considering.

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What is the Wright move?

A routine error by Yoenis Cespedes, the highest paid center fielder in baseball according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, will gloss over the bigger fielding mistake from the Mets Opening Day 4-3 loss.

Cespedes striking out to end the game will make the highlight reel, a real-enough action to easily create a distraction to the true anchor that could weigh down the prospects for this season. And it took place just one batter before.

david-wrightWith the game-tying run 90 feet away and one out, David Wright just needed to avoid grounding into a double play. What was needed to extend the game was a productive out. What happened was the face of the franchise got blown away.

Jessica Mendoza, the new addition to the ESPN broadcast booth, noted that Wright hadn’t proved he could catch up to a high-powered fastball; something also noted by the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro. Wright was having a hard time all night catching up to 92-94 mph fastballs. Wade Davis took advantage of that fact, but that wasn’t the big problem.

Read the full article on Mets Merized Online.

How Vital is a Quick Start to the Season?

harvey syndergaard

As I grow older, I’m quick to forget what my mind doesn’t consider important. It’s been years since I remembered the name of the first girl I kissed, but I know the full name of the first female to break my heart.

I don’t remember the last time I was in Shea Stadium, but I’ll never forget my mother taking me to Flushing on Mother’s Day with ground level seats. Thanks to the power of Google, I can confirm it was May 14, 1989 and I moved down to the front row to watch Lenny Dykstra score on an infield error for a walk-off win before an announced crowd of 35,547.

That improved the team’s record to 20-14 and they were 1.5 games up in the National League East. It was an impressive start to the season, similar to what the team put together last year. With such a strong finish and an eventual National League championship, it’s easy to forget about the beginning.

After a 2-3 start that included taking two out of three from the preemptive greatest team ever assembled that still waiting for the rings that Bryce Harper ordered last offseason, the Mets won their next 11 games.

A team that came into the season with questions about their offense scored 57 runs during the streak, allowing 31 runs and truly taking advantage of the schedule by beating up on dregs of the division.

Read the full article on Mets Merized Online.