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….