Posted in Baseball Cards

National Baseball Card Day

I hope you’re having a great weekend.

Next Saturday, August 11th, will be the third annual Topps National Baseball Card Day, when you can get free packs of baseball cards if you jump through a few hoops… like finding a participating hobby shop and making a qualifying purchase. It might help boost sales for certain retailers, but it’s not doing a thing to bring new collectors into the hobby or promote baseball.

The cool part of the promotion is starting earlier — each Major League Baseball team will distribute packs of baseball cards as a stadium giveaway for one of their home games in August. The Mets are doing this today. And this is the part of the promotion that I like because it’s getting baseball cards into the hands of folks that like baseball, but who aren’t necessarily card collectors. And maybe a few of them will decide that baseball cards are something fun and they’ll ask for (or buy) a few packs the next time they’re in Target or WalMart.

I’m not at the Mets’ game today, but I did go last year and got my pack of four cards (from a nine-card stadium giveaway set.) I also got the tenth card from the hobby shop promotion. The player selection made me feel a bit nostalgic when I got them – David Wright is one of the greatest players in team history, but we’ll probably never see him on the field again. It’s even more so now.

Do you collect baseball cards?

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

Get out those brooms (and umbrellas)

The New York Mets swept an abbreviated two-game series from the Philadelphia Phillies this week, but I think the bigger news is that the teams were able to play two out of three after Monday’s snow out.

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My view of Citi Field from the exit of the Mets-Willets Point subway station

My friend Vinny invited me to join him for Tuesday’s game, but I have to admit I had my doubts that it would be played. It rained most of the afternoon, and a light mist continued to fall through the night.

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Rusty Staub may be gone, but not forgotten. This banner outside the right field gate is one of a few places you’ll find Rusty Staub’s picture at Citi Field.

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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

Last Mets standing

I thought I was numb.

It’s been an awful year for the New York Mets – yesterday afternoon’s lost dropped their record to 55-71, including a miserable 28-39 at home. (I feel blessed that they actually won one of the handful of games I went to this season.)

There have been so many injuries that the team is actually issuing press releases to help the media keep track of who’s hurt, who might be coming back soon and who’s done for the season.

Thanks to a series of summer trades, the Mets have become the second youngest team in baseball. And many of the veterans who are left — I’m looking at you, Yoenis Cespedes — have underperformed. A lot. (Cespedes, earning the highest salary among the 2017 Mets, has a 1.6 Fangraphs WAR — just 0.2 points higher than what Noah Syndergaard accomplished in 27.1 innings.)

I still put the Mets on as background noise if I’m home, but I haven’t actively paid attention to every minute of the tv broadcasts since early June.

Yesterday, I got to see the ugly footage of Michael Conforto dislocating his shoulder during his likely final plate appearance of 2017. And surprise, surprise… the Mets can still deliver that sucker punch even when you thought it couldn’t get worse.

My heart goes out to Conforto, who was on his way to becoming the Mets’ best player and one of baseball’s stars this year with an amazing season. Hopefully the Mets’ leadership will handle his injury properly and Conforto will be able to pick up where he left off next year.

Conforto, and more recently rookies Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, were the reasons I was still watching Mets baseball this year.

Let’s hope Rosario and Smith can both make it to October 1st.

Posted in Baseball Cards, New York Mets

Topps Now 2017

1493779390145-a4ac032b-9195-4d3c-ba8f-601cd67c360c_Last year, a fellow Mets fan surprised me with a bunch of the Topps Now cards released during the team’s Wild Card-winning season.

For those unfamiliar with Topps Now, just about every day during the baseball season, Topps produces one or more baseball cards focusing on a highlight from the previous days’ games. Those cards are available for 24 hours, and Topps prints however many people buy.

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Posted in Baseball

I should probably be more excited…

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2016 Yoenis Cespedes Topps Bunt Card, received from A.J., The Lost Collector

Yesterday, the New York Mets made what is likely to be their biggest move of the off-season. They reached an agreement with free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to bring him back to New York for the next four seasons that will make him the highest paid Mets player ever (at least in terms of average annual value.

 

And that’s great. No, really, it is – the 2017 Mets will be a lot more fun to watch with Cespedes in the lineup than without him.

But at least according to published reports, Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson‘s next off-season priority is trading away RF Jay Bruce or CF Curtis Granderson.

The 2016 Mets were tied for 25th in the majors in runs scored despite ranking 5th in home runs. And since it seems like the offensive game plan is going to be the same in next year, don’t you want to have a deeper lineup where all three of your starting outfielders are legitimate 20+ home run threats?

But ok, Cespedes is a Gold Glove left fielder, while neither Bruce nor Granderson are considered strong defensive players. Maybe Alderson is trying to shore up the defense in a deal? Nope… at least not according to what Newsday’s Marc Carig is hearing. The Mets are hoping to unload one of their outfielders for “prospects or even a controllable bullpen piece.”

If Bruce is traded, Granderson would play center and presumably Michael Conforto would inherit right…perhaps in a platoon with Juan Lagares. If Granderson gets traded, Bruce plays right and Conforto and Lagares platoon in center.

So unless Conforto figures out how to hit curveballs this winter and starts living up to the promise we saw when he first came up in 2015, we’re probably looking at an offense that will be very similar to what we watched last year.

And I don’t think I have to remind anyone that wasn’t always a whole lot of fun.

But at least we don’t have to find out how much worse the Mets’ offense could look without Cespedes. So we’ve got that going for us, which is something.