Posted in Autographs, Baseball Cards, New York Mets

Some baseball cards on a snowy day

It’s snowing again as I write this morning, but we’re less than a month away from the start of spring training. (Yoenis Cespedes, Amed Rosario, Wilmer Flores, and Juan Lagares are already in Florida.)

So I thought I’d share some recent baseball card purchases, my first of 2018. I’m particularly happy with the T.J. Rivera and Josh Smoker cards since they’ve been Mets long enough to appreciate them.

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Baseball Reference tells me that Jamie Callahan and Tomas Nido played for the Mets last year, but I don’t remember them at all. Luis Guillorme made an amazing catch in the dugout last spring, but he’s still waiting for his shot in the big leagues. The A.J. Ramos card is a placeholder until I can get one that shows him as a Met. I think I already had a Matt Reynolds autograph, but he’s sporting the snazzy Mr. Met spring training cap and it was only a dollar… so why not?

Odds & ends:

  • Johnny Monell, who briefly played for the 2015 Mets, has joined the Tampa Bay Rays organization
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Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

January thaw

Like the temperatures in the Northeast, Major League Baseball’s frozen hot stove season experienced a brief thaw late last week.

The New York Mets got things started by signing Jay Bruce to a three-year, $39 million contract Wednesday, and added Adrian Gonzalez over the weekend. The Pittsburgh Pirates shipped former Cy Young Award contender Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros for a package of four middling prospects. We finally have some actual news to discuss instead of just rumors.

The Mets’ moves are not exciting, but they should help the team.

Bruce is a consistently productive hitter with inconsistent defensive ratings, though the eyeball test is going to tell you that you’re in trouble if you ever consider him one of the best defensive players on your team. He can help provide power in the middle of the batting order and buy time for Michael Conforto to fully recover from last year’s shoulder injury, even though Conforto will likely be forced to play center field when he does return. And Bruce proved versatile enough to play first base, if there is a need.

Gonzalez is a low-risk, moderate reward signing. With the Atlanta Braves on the hook for all but $545,000 of his $21.5 million contract, Gonzalez can provide spring training competition for Dominic Smith. He can be a veteran bat off the bench if Smith wins the first base job, and Gonzalez can be released if he shows he can’t play at a high enough level to help the Mets.

After all, neither Smith nor Gonzalez had good seasons at the Major League level last year. Gonzalez hit .231 / .287 / .355 with three home runs in 231 at bats in an injury shortened season that saw him lose his job to rookie Cody Bellinger. As a late-season call-up, Smith hit .192 / .262 / .395 with nine home runs in 167 at bats.

For a rebuilding team, it would be an easy call to see if Smith could grow into a starting role. A team that sees itself as a contender needs a fallback plan. fans can’t be criticized for hoping that plan would be more ambitious than Gonzalez. But Gonzalez makes the Mets a better team and shouldn’t preclude them from continuing to shore up their infield by adding a second baseman or third baseman join Asdrubal Cabrera and Amed Rosario and the winner of the first base competition.

Here’s hoping that infielder is coming…and I wouldn’t mind another starting pitcher. Even Bartolo Colon on a minor league deal wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The Cole trade is more of a head-scratcher. Sure, it’s a easy win for the Astros — the defending World Series champs add to an already-good starting rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton.

Even if pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, infielder Colin Moran, who was Houston’s No. 5 prospect and outfielder Jason Martin, who was Houston’s No. 15 prospect, pan out for the Pirates, the Astros made a move that helps them defend their title with minimal impact on their 2018 roster.

The Pirates are getting young, Major League-ready talent… but no one who projects with enough upside to be a star. Their fans are still left wondering if Cole was the first step of a full rebuild or an attempt to reload for another run with Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison. And they’ve got to be coming to the realization that if the return for Cole – a 27-year-old with two years of team control – was disappointing, McCutchen – a 31-year-old in the final year of a seven-year contract – may not bring back anyone of note at all.

With less than a month to go before players start reporting to spring training, hopefully we’ll get some more actual baseball news to talk about instead of rumors created for the sake of page clicks.

And hey, if we don’t? Those “Player X is in the best shape of his life” stories might be a little more interesting if Player X is still looking for a job when they run.

Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

The 2018 Queens Baseball Convention is less than two weeks away

The 2018 Queens Baseball Convention is happening next Saturday, January 20th.

Developed as a fan-run fanfest for the New York Mets, the QBC offers us a chance to get excited about baseball again during a long, cold winter.

Current Mets players Brandon Nimmo and Chris Flexen, and former Mets star Todd Hundley will be holding panels and signing autographs. Mr. Met will also be making an appearance. Gary Apple and Jon Harper will host a live (non-televised) version of SNY’s Hot Stove show. There will also be vendors and more.

I’m planning to spend next Saturday at Katch Astoria. There are still a limited number of tickets available at www.queensbaseballconvention.com. If you see me there, please say hi.

Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

Hoping the Mets emerge from hibernation

We’re about six weeks away from the start of MLB spring training, and most of the best free agents are still looking for jobs. So there’s still time and opportunity for the Mets to make some moves to improve their club for the 2018 season.

And that’s a good thing, because so far all they’ve done is lock up reliever Anthony Swarzak for the next two years. It could just be a negotiating position, but so far GM Sandy Alderson looks like he’s planning to go into 2018 with substantially the same roster that he had at the end of last season – a year where the Mets lost 92 games and scored just 735 runs while allowing 863.

If the Mets can avoid key injuries — no guarantee for any organization, especially this one — they will be better than they were last year. But still, it’s hard to believe that the current team is likely to have a record much better than the .500 mark.

John Harper is the latest columnist to call on the Mets to loosen the purse strings to compete before the window that opened with the 2015 playoff run closes completely. There’s a fan movement to boycott until Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz sell the team.

I understand where that fan anger is coming from, but I don’t think this is a battle I want to fight.

I’ll savor the experience of being at the ballpark on the one or two occasions I go to Citi Field this summer. I’ll put games on as background noise when I’m home. I’ll enjoy the great performances we get from players like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes and Amed Rosario.

And if the Mets stop being fun at all, I will stop paying attention to them.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.

Posted in Autographs, Baseball, New York Mets

2017 Mets Autograph: Neil Walker

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Neil Walker didn’t finish the 2017 season with the Mets, but he was the team’s primary second baseman until an August trade sent him to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Walker posted a solid .339 / .442 / .780 slash line with ten home runs through 73 games with the Mets, though those numbers were down slightly from his 2016 performance. He’s currently a free agent, and the Mets still have an opening for a secondbaseman, but I don’t particularly see a reunion in the cards.

I wrote to Walker care of the Mets spring training camp in February and asked him to sign this card from the 2016 Topps Update series, the only one I had at the time that pictured Walker with the Mets. I got it back last week, postmarked from Pittsburgh – it’s a nice early Christmas present.

Posted in Autographs, New York Mets

2017 Mets Autograph: Chris Flexen

I’ve been collecting baseball autographs since I was a kid in junior high school. Over the years, I’ve managed to acquire a signed baseball card for more than 900 of the 1043 players who’ve appeared in a game for the New York Mets.

While I’m no longer as active in pursuing new autographs as I used to be, I still try writing to most of the rookies who go to spring training camp with the Mets every season to ask them to sign a baseball card for me.

This year, one of those rookies was a 22-year-old pitcher named Chris Flexen who’d never pitched above the Single-A level of the minor leagues. Maybe he thought he’d be pitching in New York this summer when he went to spring training, but I doubt that anyone else did.

An unimaginable string of injuries led the Mets to call Flexen up from Double-A in July, and he started nine major league games in 2017. I wish I could say he enjoyed storybook success, but Flexen fared about as well as you’d expect of a pitcher who was rushed too quickly. Hopefully he learned some things that will help him be a better pitcher in 2018 and beyond.

Earlier this week, I got my baseball card back with an autograph, so now Chris Flexen is represented in my collection. Sometime before the end of the year, I’ll have to go through this year’s additions and look through my signed cards to see if I already had any of the players who made their Mets debuts in 2017 to see where my collection currently stands.

Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

Holiday weekend Mets items

Thanksgiving weekend was a quiet time for actual Mets news.

Noah Syndergaard spend part of his holiday helping to feed homeless people, per the Mets’ Twitter feed.

The Mets are reportedly one of two teams that have made an offer to free agent reliever Bryan Shaw.

Nothing against Shaw, who seems like a quality bullpen contributor… but the Mets have Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos and Jerry Blevins, not to mention unsuccessful starters Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, or last season’s middle relief crew that included Rafael Montero, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker and Paul Sewald. There are plenty of arms that might be effective out of the bullpen and not nearly enough starters that they can count on. So maybe Sandy Alderson should prioritize his limited budget for offseason acquisitions a little bit better?

Queens Baseball Convention tickets have gone on sale, and you can even save a little bit of money if you buy them by tomorrow night to take advantage of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale.

This will be my first time going, and I’m looking forward to it.