Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

We’re waiting…

A Mr. Met toy waves his hand
The eternally cheerful Mr. Met is far more optimistic than most Mets fans. 

The New York Mets and Seattle Mariners are reported to be close to a deal that would send Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak and three prospects west for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. They’ve been close to completing the trade for a day or two now, and it could drag out until Monday if MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t want to spend his weekend reviewing it and giving it his blessing.

Predictably, most Mets fans hate the idea of the deal. We’ve been conditioned to distrust the Wilpon family’s motivations and the people that they hire to run the team. And to be fair, Sandy Alderson, Omar Minaya, Jim Duquette and Steve Phillips had a mixed track record in making trades and signing free agents.

But we also hated the idea that’s been floated for weeks that they want to trade Noah Syndergaard. And well, you can’t have it both ways. The Mets have been a fourth-place team with an under .500 record for the past two years and they’ve been a losing team for eight of the past ten seasons.

This can’t be another winter where the team tinkers a little bit and hopes for the best. You either do a complete tear-down and rebuild, or you trade players that won’t help you in 2019 for ones who will.

The 2019 Mets will win more games because of Cano and Diaz than they will because of Bruce, Swarzak, Justin Dunn, Jared Kalenic and Gerson Bautista.

Cano is still a good player — even at age 36 — and should be able to help the Mets score runs while not hurting them too badly in the field… at least for the next year or two. Diaz was the best reliever in the American League this year and gives the Mets the lockdown closer they’ve wanted for years.

Meanwhile, Bruce has had exactly one good season in the past five. Swarzak was a complete bust in his first year in New York. Dunn is the best pitching prospect in the Mets’ farm system, but he hasn’t thrown an inning above Double-A. Kalenic will be 19 next season and has all of 52 games of professional experience. Bautista is a project.

You could argue that the Mets should be able to get more for their prospects than Diaz and Cano, but I’d point out that Dunn is the only one who could charitably be considered close to being a contributor at the major league level.

If Brodie Van Wagenen’s first trade as Mets’ general manager turns out to be the centerpiece of the offseason, I’ll join the crowd of disappointed Mets fans. If they complete this deal and still go on to trade Syndergaard, I’ll be wondering if Van Wagenen even has a plan.

But I’d like to think this is just step one of a roster reshaping that will give the Mets a true chance to compete with the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies.

Wait and hope.

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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 Baseball, New York Mets

Baseball is back, and that is awesome

Baseball is back.

I got to watch the Opening Day introductions of the Mets players live on SNY before it was time to start work, so I saw the new Mets trainer get cheered for not being Ray Ramirez. Jacob deGrom earned applause even without his trademarked long locks. Wilmer Flores, man of the people, got one of the biggest ovations. So did David Wright, though it was sad to realize that the cheers were for what he’d already done and not what he might still accomplish on a baseball field.

Philip Evans looked like he was trying to run Brandon Nimmo competition for having the biggest smile on Opening Day. After a too-long winter, it was great.

I had to wait for the SNY Encore to watch the game, which the Mets won 9-4.

Noah Syndergaard was impressive, striking out 10 while walking none. But I agree with him that there’s room for improvement… forget about Yadier Molina’s fluke home run, because Molina hit a pretty good pitch and it barely stayed fair. But Jose Martinez (who the hell is Jose Martinez, anyway?) looked way too comfortable.

Amed Rosario had one of the biggest hits in the game. Brandon Nimmo was on base just about every time he came up. Yoenis Cespedes was Yoenis Cespedes (in a good way.) Nobody could touch Robert Gsellman when he came in in relief.

It was awesome. The cherry on top is that Michael Conforto might be back next week, almost a month ahead of schedule. (Adrian Gonzalez, you should probably consider yourself on notice.)

I got to see a few minutes of the Yankees’ opener, though not any of the exciting bits. Giancarlo Stanton lived up to the hype — at least on Day 1. A homer in his first official Yankee at bat gave John Sterling the chance to debut his awful home run call. (Dude, you had all winter and this is what you came up with?)

The other big star of the winter, Shohei Otani, singled in his first Major League at bat and drove in a run. He went 1-for-5 as the DH in the Los Angeles Angels’ Opening Day loss. Otani is set to make his MLB pitching debut on Easter Sunday.

Thanks to Easter and all the daytime baseball scheduled during the season’s opening week, it will be a little while before I can settle into a rhythm of watching games… but it’s nice to know that baseball and the Mets will be there for the next six months, at least.

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 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.

Posted in Uncategorized

2017 Topps Series 1 Mets

I know I’m late to the party, but I just got my 2017 Topps Series 1 Mets team set in the mail this week.

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Player selection is pretty good, considering Topps has to save some recognizable names for Series 2 in a few months. I haven’t double-checked the 40-man roster lately, but I think everyone pictured is still part of the Mets’ organization. (I’m puzzled by the decision to include Matt Reynolds over printing a T.J. Rivera rookie card, but I can easily overlook it since it’s the biggest head-scratcher.)

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