Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

Lost weekend encapsulates a lost Mets season

The New York Mets are in the middle of one of their most disappointing seasons of my lifetime. And this weekend seemed like a perfect representation of it in miniature.

The Mets opened the second half on Friday in last place, percentage points behind the rebuilding Miami Marlins. But there were reasons to pay a little bit of attention. Sure, after 21 years of interleague play and an actual World Series meeting, the Subway Series isn’t what it was, but it’s still something. And the Mets had Noah Syndergaard on the mound and Yoenis Cespedes playing for the first time since May 13th. If the on-field aspects didn’t draw you in, there’s still the speculation about what the Mets’ would do leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of the month.

In short, this was about as good as it was going to get for the rest of 2018. And the Mets delivered on the field Friday night: Syndergaard scattered eight hits over five innings and limited the New York Yankees to just one run, Cespedes hit a home run and Michael Conforto drove in three runs to lead Mickey Callaway’s squad to a 7-5 victory.

But that’s never the whole story. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman combined to throw 100 pitches over the final four innings of the game because Syndergaard left with what was termed “a little dead arm” and closer Jeurys Familia was unavailable since the Mets were in advanced trade talks with a then-unidentified team.

And then it got even worse. Cespedes told reporters that calcification in both of his heels was at the root of the leg issues that made him miss more than two months of this season. The only way to fix it is surgery.

When asked if it could be done during the offseason, Cespedes said he was still thinking about it, noting, “The recovery process takes over eight to 10 months.”

The Mets being the Mets, nobody was prepared to deal with this bombshell Friday night. Nobody was prepared to address it Saturday morning, either, though Callaway had to face the press.

This is how Callaway opened his pregame news conference: “I didn’t get to read any of the stuff he said, or hear it. I’m not quite exactly sure what he said. I just know that he came in pretty sore today.”

Cespedes did not play on Saturday, as the Mets lost to the Yankees 7-6. Neither did Familia, who was traded to the Oakland Athletics for minor league RHP Bobby Wahl, 3B William Toffey, and international bonus money.

Seven years ago, I met a 21-year-old Familia outside of Mercer County Waterfront Park in Trenton. He signed a couple of baseball cards for me and tried to teach the small group of Mets fans who waited to see him after the game how to pronounce his first name correctly. (Hey, he was years away from becoming a National League All-Star, and none of us had much more than high school Spanish.)

Familia seemed like a good kid who would go far, and he did. Remember his failings in the 2016 World Series, but also remember that the Mets wouldn’t have made the playoffs that year without him. Familia finishes his Mets’ career with 123 saves, more than all but Armando Benitiz and John Franco.

Was he a perfect closer? No. But then again, there is no such thing. Mariano Rivera came the closest of anyone I ever got to watch, and just ask a Yankee fan about the 2001 World Series if you need proof. But hey, at least Familia has a chance to play in games that matter over the last two months of the season, and that’s more than most of his ex-teammates will do.

The annual sell-off sucks, but how about the players the Mets got back from Oakland?

Well, we’ll probably see the 26-year-old Wahl in New York sooner or later. He made his major league debut with the Athletics last season and was putting up decent numbers in Triple-A at the time of the trade. Lord knows, the Mets need all the bullpen arms they can find since they don’t want most of their starters to face lineups more than twice.

Toffey, 23, was assigned to Double-A Binghamton. He was the 17th best prospect in Oakland’s system and a fourth round draft pick in 2017. Does he have a major league future? Who knows? But if he does, it’s years away. And maybe the international bonus pool money helps the Mets stock their farm system some more.

I don’t pretend to be a prospect expert (very often, anyway) and I was willing to accept this as a reasonable return for two months of Familia’s services… until I saw people with actual expertise criticizing the deal.

Sources from rival teams interested in Familia told The Athletic’s Jim Bowden (subscription required) that they didn’t know why the Mets didn’t approach them one final time to give them a chance to top Oakland’s offer…

I now find myself hoping very strongly that the Mets do not trade off Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler this month.

Sunday, the Mets finally made one of their three co-GMs available to talk to reporters about Cespedes. (I’m having a very hard time not referring to them as Larry, Moe and Curly.)

“It’s something that he has managed and we have managed with him,” [assistant general manager John] Ricco said. “It’s one of those things he has good days and bad days with it. He brought up surgery with it — surgery is kind of a last resort. The way you treat this is with various conservative methods, whether they be stretching, orthotic, anti-inflammatories, and that is kind of how he’s managed those symptoms over the past few years.”

“To our knowledge, the first [time] he even was considering this surgery was when he said it on Friday.”

Cespedes is planning to see a foot specialist and Dr. David Altchek this week as he tries to decide what to do going forward.

As I currently understand things,

  • We don’t know if Cespedes will play again in 2018 or if he will have surgery.
  • If Cespedes does have surgery now, he will still miss a significant portion (perhaps all) of the 2019 season.
  • There is no guarantee for how well Cespedes will be able to perform, regardless of what treatment he receives.

It really makes me wonder what Cespedes was doing on the field on Friday night, and whether the Mets know what they are doing with their best hitter and highest paid player.

And since it never rains, it pours, there was also a health update on Syndergaard on Sunday. He went on the 10-day disabled list after recently exhibiting symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease, a viral illness that normally affects young children.

You just can’t make this up.

“Sounds like once the blisters and everything — or whatever he’s got going on on his hands — clears up, he’s going to be fine,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said Sunday.

Let’s hope that’s how it turns out this time. Syndergaard’s last trip the the DL was only supposed to cost him one start, too.

The bright side on a rainy Sunday night? The final game of the Subway Series was postponed, giving the Mets a chance to avoid further losses for 24 hours.

Tonight the nightmare season resumes, with the Mets facing the cellar-dwelling San Diego Padres (weather permitting.) The reason to watch tonight? Jacob deGrom, pitching for the first time since the All-Star Game. And then maybe just check the scores and watch the highlights until it’s deGrom’s turn to pitch again….

Posted in Uncategorized

87-76

The New York Mets’ 2016 baseball season lasted 163 games, ending last Wednesday when Jeurys Familia gave up a three-run homer to Conor Gillaspie in the ninth inning of the National League Wild Card Game. The Mets hitters couldn’t figure out how to deal with San Francisco Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner, who pitched a shutout.

I won’t lie – it was a frustrating loss. But several days later, I’m willing to tip my cap to Bumgarner and the Giants. They were the better team on Wednesday, though they’re standing on the brink of elimination from the National League Division Series. The Giants ran into a team that’s better than them in the Chicago Cubs. That’s how baseball is supposed to work…and sometimes it does.

Terry Collins took a team to the postseason, if only for three hours, with a rotation that included unheralded rookies Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, along with ageless veteran Bartolo Colon and the Mets’ one enduring ace, Noah Syndergaard. He patched together an infield that included just one Opening Day starter. And somehow, he kept everyone believing that a playoff push was possible when common sense said to start planning for 2017. If that’s not worthy of Manager of the Year consideration, I don’t know what is.

So now we wait and watch to see who will be crowned the 2016 World Series Champ, even though it won’t be the Mets. I’m rooting for Daniel Murphy and his Washington Nationals teammates, but I could see myself switching over to Justin Turner‘s Dodgers if the Nats don’t make it.

The Mets have a host of important roster decisions to make this winter…the team that starts 2017 may not bear much resemblance to the one that finished 2016. That’s ok, and it makes for an interesting hot stove season.

Meanwhile, I have a bunch of baseball cards to sort, checklists to update and autograph request letters to write.

Posted in Uncategorized

We gotta believe

2015-02-17-13.50.42

This was the view outside my window this afternoon… it hardly seems possible, but baseball season really isn’t that far away.

In addition to our usual off-season silliness – articles about how the Mets should retire Mike Piazza‘s #31 to “steal the Yankees’ thunder,” Las Vegas oddsmakers’ predictions about how many games your favorite team will win, and Jerry Seinfeld still trying to get Bobby Ojeda‘s SNY job back – there were actual glimmers of baseball news from Port St. Lucie.

While Bobby Parnell won’t address the media until tomorrow, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin says that the Mets’ once and future closer is only likely to spend the first two to three weeks of the season on the disabled list after having Tommy John surgery on April 8, 2014.

And while that’s definitely good news, I’m not all that concerned about Parnell’s absence even if it lasts longer. I’m confident that Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Vic Black can handle the job. Parnell will just give Terry Collins another option. (If anything, I’m concerned about whether Terry can effectively balance the bullpen workload or if he will overuse “favorites” while failing to get enough regular work for others.)

I certainly like the attitudes of our bullpen guys.

“I think this is the year,” Familia told NJ.com’s Mike Vorkunov.

When asked about Matt Harvey‘s talk about the Mets winning a World Series championship, Mejia told Vorkunov. “I think that’s good because we gotta believe,” he says. “If we don’t believe about our team, we’re gonna lose.”

On February 17th with icicles outside my window, I agree with Mejia. We gotta believe that we’re gonna see baseball weather, that the Mets are gonna be good, and this really could be the year.

Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

Tempering enthusiasm for Sterling Award winners

The New York Mets' 2014 Sterling Award winners pose for a group photo before last night's game. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
The New York Mets’ 2014 Sterling Award winners pose for a group photo before last night’s game. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

The New York Mets recognized this year’s group of Sterling Award winners prior to last night’s game.

Dilson Herrera and Dario Alvarez have already started to make contributions at the major league level, albeit in a very limited way.  I’d like to believe they will only get better, and players like Steven Matz, Matt Reynolds and Kevin Plawecki will join them sooner rather than later.

But here’s the thing – we call minor league players “prospects” for a reason. Sometimes they don’t work out at all. Sometimes success is just reaching the major leagues and sticking for a little while in some role. Very, very rarely do they turn out to be stars.

Take a look at the players who were honored in September 2011, Sandy Alderson‘s first opportunity to hand out Sterling Awards:

Continue reading “Tempering enthusiasm for Sterling Award winners”

Posted in Uncategorized

More 2013 Mets baseball cards

I haven’t bought any more packs of 2013 baseball cards since the three I picked up last week, but my friend Bart gave me a few more Mets cards.

Lucas Duda's 2013 Topps baseball card
Lucas Duda’s 2013 Topps baseball card

(Click to enlarge)

Lucas Duda… potentially the best hitter in what is likely to be the worst Mets outfield of recent memory. Of all the players who wear #21, Topps chose Duda for card #21 in this years set, so he’s got that going for him anyway.

Continue reading “More 2013 Mets baseball cards”

Posted in Trenton Thunder, Uncategorized

Chris Schwinden, strange minor league scheduling & the longest baseball game

Chris Schwinden (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

For the past two days, much of the talk among fans and media covering the New York Mets has been about whether Chris Schwinden deserves to make another start. (I think that artist/blogger Joe Petruccio summed up Wednesday’s game rather eloquently in this cartoon.)

Schwinden has not looked like a pitcher who can win in the major leagues in his two 2012 starts, though both have taken place at hitter-friendly ballparks: one in at Denver’s Coors Field and the other at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. And as blogger Toby Hyde points out, there’s not much reason to expect Jeremy Hefner would really give the Mets a better chance to win.

Until Chris Young completes his rehab from shoulder surgery, Schwinden and Hefner are the Mets’ best in-house options… unless you really want to see Miguel Batista pitch more innings. Jeurys Familia is averaging better than one walk per inning at Buffalo;  no matter how good his stuff looks, it’s clear he’s not ready for the majors. Matt Harvey has a grand total of 165.2 professional innings to his credit… so it seems premature to bring him to the major leagues too.

Continue reading “Chris Schwinden, strange minor league scheduling & the longest baseball game”

Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

Odds & Ends: David Wright, Ruben Tejada & Terry Collins

A new week brings us that much closer to the start of baseball season.

Jeurys Familia (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Yesterday, most of the beat writers picked a player to profile for the Sunday sports sections. I enjoy reading these articles during spring training – particularly the ones that focus on something other than baseball – because really, how many times do you want to see “I’m in the best shape of my life” quotes?

(Not really related to anything, but it seems strange to me every time I see pictures of Familia in his #75 spring training jersey. It’s going to be a long time before I see a Mets pitcher wearing that number without flashing back to Francisco Rodriguez.)

In actual “news” from Port St. Lucie:  Continue reading “Odds & Ends: David Wright, Ruben Tejada & Terry Collins”