390-mets-1022

Mets 2017 Outlook – December Edition (Part 1)

With Sandy Alderson and his GM counterparts still working to finalize their teams’ Opening Day rosters, it’s too early to make predictions for the 2017 season.  However, let’s take a look at where the Mets stand as we approach New Year’s Day.  In this edition, we’ll take a look at their pitching staff.

 

Starting Pitching

The Mets are built around their starting pitching.  When healthy, the Mets have one of the best rotations in baseball.  Of course, “when healthy” is the caveat here.  2016 ended with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz all on the shelf, and Zack Wheeler missed his second consecutive season coming off of Tommy John surgery.  Noah Syndergaard emerged as the team’s ace, but he battled through bone spurs of his own.  If Thor, deGrom, Harvey, and Matz can all stay healthy and pitch to expectations, the Mets can reasonably expect to complete for the NL East crown in 2017.

As for Wheeler, it’s hard to expect anything from him given his long hiatus.  Maybe he finds some success in a bullpen role, but the Mets cannot count on him for any major contribution in 2017.  Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo came out of nowhere to help propel the Mets into the postseason last year.  I would expect Gsellman to start the year as the team’s fifth starter, with Lugo joining the bullpen.

 

Bullpen

Jeurys Familia set the Mets’ single season record for saves last year, but his Wild Card Game performance is  what Mets fans will remember the most from his 2016 campaign.  Despite his postseason struggles and anxiety-filled ninth innings, Familia is still one of the league’s better closers.  The Mets are still awaiting word on what punishment Familia will face for his domestic violence incident, but it’s reasonable to expect that the Mets may need to get through April without their closer.  In his absence, Addison Reed will be counted on to take over the ninth inning.  Reed had a career year in a setup role in 2016, finishing with a 1.97 ERA.  Can he pick up where he left off last year?  Even if Reed maintains his dominance and excels filling in for Familia, who will take over the eighth inning?

Sandy Alderson’s most important task for the rest of the offseason is to find a solid arm for the back of the bullpen.  Reed and Familia were both overworked in 2016, and even without Familia’s pending suspension, the Mets needed another reliable arm for Terry Collins to go to in the late innings.  In an ideal world, Alderson would be able to turn Jay Bruce into that reliever, but it’s unlikely Bruce (or Curtis Granderson) will get the Mets the arm that they covet.   Alderson also needs a reliable lefty for the bullpen.  The return of Jerry Blevins would be the best-case scenario, but if another team is willing to give him a three year contract, the Mets will be looking elsewhere.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 for my thoughts on the Mets’ offense.

Super Bowl XLIX – Flashbacks to 2006

While watching the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX, I couldn’t help but think back to Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

When Jermaine Kearse of the Seahawks made a miraculous catch at the five yard line – the ball bouncing off of his leg, body and into his arms – I instantly thought of Endy Chavez, who ironically played for the Seattle Mariners last season. The Seahawks were on shaky ground, at midfield with time running out in their quest for a second straight title. When Kearse made his catch, you felt there was no way the Seahawks could lose. As a Mets fan, though, I had seen this before.

2006 seemed like it would be the Mets’ year, but injuries forced them to turn to Oliver Perez to start the biggest game of the season. Perez, acquired at the trade deadline in July, may have been the worst Game 7 starter in postseason history. Even if you somehow ignored his 3-13 regular season record, you couldn’t ignore that he was freaking Oliver Perez. To his credit, Perez did all the Mets could have asked of him, holding the Cardinals to just one run as he pitched into the sixth inning.

With one out in the sixth and the game tied at 1, Scott Rolen came up with a runner on first. Rolen hit a drive to left field that seemed like a sure goner. Endy Chavez, only starting himself due to an injury to Cliff Floyd, raced back to the wall, leaped, and somehow brought Rolen’s ball back into the yard. Instead of being down 3-1, Chavez’s catch started an inning-ending double play that had Shea Stadium rocking. When Endy “saved the day” (as Gary Cohen put it), most watching figured there was no way that the Mets could lose this game. The Mets would put a few runs on the board, Billy Wagner and the pen would nail down the final outs, and the Mets would be on their way to Detroit.

Except that didn’t happen.

The Mets left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, and didn’t threaten the next two innings. Aaron Heilman gave up a two run bomb to Yadier Molina, and the Mets went into the bottom of the ninth down 3-1. The Mets put the first two runners on base, and then loaded the bases with two outs for Carlos Beltran. We all know how that ended.

Why in the world did Pete Carroll and the Seahawks call a pass play? Why didn’t Beltran swing? These questions – and the catches that became footnotes in heartbreaking losses – will have Seahawks and Mets fans wondering what could have been, or what should have been, for years to come.

The Grandy Man is a Met

Grandy Man

Who will hit some homers? 

Steal a base or two?

He’s certainly no stiff, but often he will whiff.

The Grandy Man.  



After a lot of talk and little else this offseason, Sandy Alderson and the Mets finally made a significant move as the team agreed to a 4 year, $60 million deal with former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson.  With several large contracts finally off the books, fans have been waiting for the team to open up their checkbook and make some much-needed improvements.  But until today, their only move had been the signing of Chris Young (the .200 hitting outfielder, not to be confused with the oft-injured pitcher).

So does signing Granderson turn the Mets into contenders?  Heck no.  He’s a flawed player and not a perfect fit.  With the current roster, Granderson would project to hit fourth, and he’s certainly no cleanup hitter.  But the addition of the “Grandy Man” is a start.  He adds power to a team that sorely lacks pop, and the projected outfield of Granderson-Juan Lagares-Young should be one of the better defensive outfields in the league.

The key will be what Alderson does next.  The Mets need to figure out their first base situation (no Lucas Duda, please), could use an upgrade at shortstop, and need to address their bullpen.  With no Matt Harvey in 2014, the Mets also need to fill a spot in their starting rotation.

What tricks does Sandy have up his sleeve?  Will the Wilpons allow him to do much more?   We may find out as soon as next week as Major League Baseball holds their Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World in Orlando.  Hopefully, the Mets bring home more than a pair of Mickey ears.

Wright or Reyes? Does It Matter?

The big discussion around the Mets these days (well, other than Madoff, the Wilpons, and Finkle…I mean Einhorn) is what they will do with Jose Reyes.  In his contract year, Reyes may be playing the best baseball of his career, showing everyone around the league why he is arguably the most exciting leadoff hitter in baseball.  He’s hitting triples, stealing bases, and is one of the few Mets who has not been injured this year.

Coming off of back-to-back disappointing, injury-plagued seasons, the prevailing thought was that Reyes would be a goner after his contract expired at season’s end, or he would be dealt by the July 31 trade deadline before he left as a free agent. However, with Reyes showing just how important he is to the team at the plate and in the field, the Mets may consider trying to lock up Reyes after all.

Of course, with the Mets financial woes, they likely will need to clear payroll to pay for Reyes.  With Santana and Bay unmovable, the focus has shifted to David Wright.  Once considered the Mets’ next captain, Wright has struggled since the move to Citi Field.  He has shown flashes of being one of the best third baseman in baseball, but Fred Wilpon‘s comments in the infamous article in The New Yorker were actually dead-on: Wright is a very good player, but not a superstar.

As someone who owns a David Wright jersey, I never thought I’d see the day where Wright would be dealt.  He has often proclaimed wanting to be a Met for life, and he has been the face of the franchise since the departure of Mike Piazza.  Wright has shown to be more durable than Reyes (this year’s back injury notwithstanding), but if you look at the big picture, who is more replaceable?   If you take a long, objective look, it’s Wright.

That being said, Mets fans are hoping that Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons can find a way to keep both Reyes and Wright.  But at the end of the day, will it matter?  The  Mets have had both Wright and Reyes on the left side of the infield for most of the past decade, and here is what they have to show for it:

First Place Finishes: 1

Playoff Appearances: 1

World Series Appearances: 0

Monumental Collapses: 2

Maybe the departure of one of the Mets “core” players isn’t the worst thing.   I mean, how much worse can things get with the Mets?

Jason Bay has Type A David Wri-tis

Affliction: David Wri-tis

Type A (Diagnosed in 2009)

  • Major Symptom: Loss of power, resulting in the inability to hit home runs.
  • Causes: Moving to a spacious ballpark in Flushing, NY 

 

Type B (Diagnosed in 2010)

  • Major Symptom: Loss of ability to make consistent contact, resulting in an alarming increase in strikeouts.  Power may return, but will be overshadowed by the inability to make contact.
  • Causes: Overcompensation for Type A David Wri-tis

I like Jason Bay.  In 2008, Bay went from the oblivion of Pittsburgh to the heat of a pennant race in Boston.  Not just that, he was asked to replace Manny Ramirez in the Red Sox lineup after the “Manny being Manny” act had run its course in Boston.  It would have been understandable to see Bay struggle or put up so-so numbers, but he immediately produced and provided clutch hits down the stretch for the Sox.  After a productive 2009 in which Bay hit a career-high 36 home runs, the Mets signed him to add some much-needed power to their lineup.

bay.jpgUnfortunately for the Mets, that power is non-existent.  Through a quarter of the season, Bay
 has one home run.  ONE.  Power hitters tend to be streaky, and Bay has a reputation for being a streaky hitter, but at some point, that should equate to a power streak, right?  It hasn’t happened.   

To his credit, Bay hustles, faces the media every day, and appears to provide solid leadership in the clubhouse.  But you can see this power outage wearing on Bay.  Last night against the Yankees, after another towering fly ball out, Bay could be seen shouting expletives as he ran down the first base line.

 

Maybe Bay should talk to Rod Barajas, who seems to have avoided David Wri-tis.  Hopefully for the Mets, Bay will find his power stroke.  Without that power, it’s going to be another long season for Mets fans. 

It’s Time to Change

brady.jpg“If you wanna reach your destiny, here’s what you’ve got to do:

When it’s time to change, then it’s time to change
Don’t fight the tide, come along for the ride, don’t you see
When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange
who you are into what you’re gonna be.
Sha na na na, na na na na na, sha na na na na
Sha na na na, na na na na na, sha na na na na”

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyooALwfxO8

 

It’s gotten so bad, the Mets need to listen to Greg, Peter, Bobby, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy.  It’s time to change.  It’s time to rearrange.  Clean house.   

 

Omar Minaya has proven he cannot build a championship team.  His tenure started off well and he did help the Mets claim their first division title since 1988.  But instead of building off of that 2006 season, his moves (or lack thereof) have sent the Mets back into mediocrity.  Yes, injuries played a part in last season’s mess, and in the previous late season collapses of the prior seasons.  But what has he done since 2006?  Johan Santana literally fell into the Mets’ laps, so I refuse to give him credit for that trade.  He has shown he can give out horrible contracts (Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo) and that he can stand pat while the starting rotation and bullpen clearly lack depth.  I’m not sure how he survived the “Adam Rubin incident” last season, but it’s time for the Wilpons to pull the plug on the Minaya era.

 

Jerry Manuel did a nice job in 2008 when he replaced Willie Randolph, but how much of the Mets resurgence should be credited simply to the Mets making a change?  You often see teams go on a run after a change in managers.  The players do seem to like Jerry, and they have shown a nice ability to come back in games this season, so I’ll give him credit for the team having “fight.”  However, Jerry clearly has issues when it comes to actually managing a game.  Whether it be his lineup configurations, horrible managing of his bullpen, or emptying his bench before the 9th inning, Manuel has shown time and time again that he is a poor in-game manager.  And considering that his title is Manager, it’s time for a change.

 

The coaching staff also needs an overhaul.  Howard Johnson was my favorite Met growing up, so it pains me to say this, but HoJo needs to go.  It’s not fair to pin a team’s offensive struggles solely on a hitting coach, but the Mets hitters clearly need a new voice and a new approach at the plate – hopefully one that involves making more contact (see David Wright, below).  Dan Warthen also needs to go.  What has he done with ANY of the Mets pitchers?  Can you name one Met pitcher who seems to have blossomed under his watch?  Neither can I.

 

I’m not going to go through the entire roster, because this could go on all day, but the Wilpons needs to bite the bullet and release Oliver Perez.  I know it’s not easy to eat $20 million, but whether Perez is sitting at home, in the bullpen, in the minor leagues (if he ever accepts an assignment), or finds his way back in the rotation, the Mets have to pay him regardless.  What is the best case scenario here?  He does some work on the side, finds his way back into the rotation, and pitches a decent game?  Maybe he pitches a few decent games?  I think we’ve seen enough not to be fooled that “Good Ollie” will ever exist.  Even if he pitches a gem or two, the “Real Ollie” will return and he’ll show he can’t find the strike zone or fight through adversity.  Releasing Perez is the classic example of addition by subtraction.  Here’s hoping the Wilpons know that equation.

 

Maybe a humiliating 4 game sweep at the hands of the Marlins will help Fred & Jeff realize that it’s time for changes.  Major changes.  Now.

Wright is Not Right

situation.jpgSorry, David, but your training session with “The Situation” hasn’t worked.  After a decent Spring Training and a home run on Opening Day, Mets fans hoped we would see the David Wright of old in 2010.  Instead, we are left to wonder if we will ever see that David Wright again.

Remember when David Wright was one of the best 2 strike hitters in the league?  The announcers would always remark about how “now the at bat was beginning” when he had 2 strikes.  Wright would battle, foul off tough pitches, and though he would strike out his fair share, it was usually only after multiple foul balls.  He was also one of the best in the game at going the other way, hitting line drives to right and right center.

So what happened?  2009 was a miserable season for Wright.  It’s not often that you would label a season in which someone hit .307 as miserable, but I don’t think many could dispute that.  His homers dipped from 33 to 10 – yes, just 10!  And despite 100 less at bats than the previous season, he struck out 22 times MORE than he had in 2008.  It’s one thing to see an increase in strikeouts coincide with an increase in power, but to see power numbers disappear and see the K’s pile up, you have to wonder – what is going on?

2009 was a mess for the Mets on many levels.  The team was absolutely decimated by injuries.  With no protection in the lineup, pitchers had no reason to pitch to Wright, so it’s understandable that he might try to expand the strike zone as a result.  Citi Field also was a factor, but it’s not like Shea Stadium was Coors Field.  However, the change did affect Wright more than others due to the expansive alley in right center.  At Shea, you’d often see Wright homer to right center or into the right field bullpen.  At Citi, those drives were long outs.  Was he consciously (or subconsciously) trying to pull everything as a result?  The icing on the cake for 2009 was when Wright was hit in the head by a Matt Cain fastball and was forced to the DL with a concussion. 

So now it’s 2010.  The Mets added Jason Bay to provide some protection, and though he hasn’t been producing at all (I’ll beat up on Bay soon enough), the supporting cast around Wright is clearly superior to last season.  Wright has shown more power this season (he already has a 7WOW!), but he is striking out at an even more alarming rate, on pace to strike out over 200 times.  His stance keeps changing (he’s crouching, he’s upright).  Through it all – even when he has been getting hits – it’s not the same.  He’s not making the same contact (that is, when he makes contact).  He’s rarely hitting the ball to right field.  When he gets to 2 strikes, it’s over.  He’s somehow hitting .272, but it certainly doesn’t seem like it. 

So what’s the answer to this “situation?”  Is it mental?  Is it the hitting coach?  Hopefully Wright and the Mets can get this figured out soon, because the Mets will never be right without the old Wright.