Let’s Go Cubs! Wait, What?

The Chicago Cubs are the Mets’ newest best friends down the stretch.

After last night’s game I am going to make a dangerous assumption and state that the Marlins are dead. So of course, they’ll go all the way!

Seriously though, that leaves the Cards and Bucs left as the last teams standing in the Mets’ way. Enter the Cubs. They play the Cards 6 more times and counting tonight’s game, they have the Bucs four more times. Here’s to 7 Cub wins!

The Cards and Bucs also play each other 6 more times and the Pirates have the Nats for three in Washington. The Mets only have 6 tough games left, all with Washington.

So it CAN happen. But WILL it?

In the words of the immortal Bob Murphy: “Fasten your seat belts!”

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Can Conforto and Nimmo be “the rabbits?”

So I am watching last night’s series finale against St. Louis and I am thinking that the Cardinals are really a mess right now. At that moment Ron Darling, who to my mind at least, is the realist of the three TV booth guys, makes a similar remark. Moments later a Cardinal infielder boots a grounder, opening the floodgates in what turned out to be a 10-6 Met win.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I have a hard time believing that the final Wild Card standings on October 2 will look the same as they do on August 26. I don’t really believe in either the Giants or the Cards and I think that one, if not two of the three teams bunched up behind the two staggering leaders might be able to pull a rabbit out of their hat and secure home field advantage for a one-game play-in.

For the Mets, those rabbits could be Michael Conforto and/or Brandon Nimmo, both of whom are destroying PCL pitching right now. It would be a delicious and ironic twist to a season that has had more ups and downs than a Disney rollercoaster if this maligned duo could somehow ignite the fuse that rockets the Mets back into the playoffs.

First off, I hate the fact that the Mets AAA team is located in Las Vegas. And this isn’t because I live in an International League city either (well not entirely). The hot, dry air plays havoc with pitchers and makes sluggers out of guys like Eric Campbell (363/493/593 in 2015), Johnny Monell (324/389/469) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (324/381/667). The fact that the first two are back in Vegas this year, while Kirk (I never want to type his last name again) is slashing 214/327/405 with Milwaukee ought to give you a good idea of the artificial environment and how much different it is from the big leagues. So, Nimmo is at 344/418/533 for Vegas, while Conforto, having suffered two demotions to baseball’s version of Siberia, is slashing 423/480/748. What is the difference between these two and the aforementioned trio as well as other Las Vegas superstar hitters such as Josh Satin or Zack Lutz?

Well for openers, both are former first round picks, making them “real” prospects. Big deal, so were Stan Jefferson and Shawn Abner, you might say. Well, with an exception here and there, both Nimmo and Conforto have essentially outhit these other players at the major league level already. Both may have suffered, especially in Conforto’s case, from being pushed into a major league role before they were fully ready. Their current lines at Vegas are a hopeful sign that the lessons have been learned and they can be recalled on September 1 and actually contribute.

And why not? The Cards are a shell of their former shelves, the Giants and Pirates have been rudderless since the All-Star break and the Marlins are racked with injuries. Only the Mets, it seems can count on a late infusion of talent to help them with a late push. The schedule favors the Mets down the stretch and hey, stranger things have happened.

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Matz Shoulder and Elbow Issues Directly Related

New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz (32) follows through on a pitch against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium on Aug 3, 2016.

Steven Matz has been pitching nearly the entire season with an elbow issue — going back to the forearm tightness he experienced way back in early May. The forearm tightness evolved into a bone spur in his elbow, and, most recently, shoulder discomfort developed. Mets management and team doctors would like you to believe the shoulder and elbow problems are not related, but that is absolutely, positively, not the case.

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The No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Day

What a difference a year makes. Last August 1 the Mets had just acquired one of the best hitters in the game, had seen a long-time organizational player shed tears over the prospect of leaving and most importantly, were in the process of sweeping a moribund divisional leader, propelling themselves (and us) into a memorable and long post season run that would last all the way to November 1.

This year?

Let me count the ways I hate the Jay Bruce trade. First there’s Bruce the player. He doesn’t really do much well. He’s slow, he has occasional power, he strikes out too much, doesn’t get on base enough and is a bad fielder. Some of his inflated offensive stats can be attributed to playing in the Great American Ballpark. In his defense, he is having a pretty good year so far. The Mets have been historically bad this season with RISP, so perhaps he helps.

Then there’s the trade itself. The Mets acquired Bruce for second baseman Dilson Herrera. As recently as last winter, the Mets were calling Herrera the second baseman of the future, which apparently justified letting the 2016 NL batting champ Daniel Murphy go. What made them change their minds and trade Murphy’s heir apparent for a player who doesn’t hit as well as Murphy? Long-time readers of this blog will no doubt recall the distain heaped on the Mets Front Office prior to the incredible hot streak they went on in late July. This type of shenanigans certainly recalls some of the bad old days of Met Front Office follies–short sided player moves, shoehorning square pegs into round holes and dealing under (while entirely denying) financial restraints.

Speaking of financial restraints, there is also a grim foreboding about next year baked somewhere in this move. Does the arrival of Bruce signal the eventual departure of Yoenis Cespedes? Bruce has another year on his deal, Cespedes can opt out this winter. I shudder to think of an outfield next year of Bruce in right, the suddenly unreliable Michael Conforto in left and the depleted Curtis Granderson in center. It could happen.

The Mets also brought back Jon Niese from Pittsburgh in a trade for Antonio Bastardo. One of the best names in Met history, Bastardo just never clicked here. I wonder what kind of reception Niese is getting in the clubhouse after he made a few pointed comments about his teammates on his way out last December.

Finally, the Mets lost to the Yankees (of all teams) in 10 innings last night 6-5. Channeling his inner Wilmer Flores, AAAA player Matt Reynolds hammered a three run homer off the entirely ineffective CC Sabathia, giving the Mets a brief lead that the otherwise reliable Addison Reed coughed up two innings later. The Mets dynamic bullpen duo of Reed and Jeurys Familia suddenly look very vulnerable.

And that is probably the most foreboding sign of them all.

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Lowered Expectations: Mets Should Acquire Todd Fraizer

ICYMI, the former Mets GM and hopefully former playboy Steve Phillips surfaced yesterday and suggested the Mets acquire Evan Longoria from Tampa Bay. As we used to say back in the day Stevie, right church, wrong pew. The Mets should definitely acquire a new third baseman, but not one of Longoria’s age (30), injury history and contract status (still owed $110M for the next 7 years).

Also speaking yesterday was White Sox GM Rick Hahn, using the “R” word to describe his team’s status. Just about anyone is available for the right price, including a certain Long Island native who plays third, hits for power and isn’t tied to a long-term commitment.

The Mets should trade Neil Walker, $2.5 million and a minor league pitchers Gabriel Ynoa and Chris Flexen to the ChiSox for Todd Frazier.

Don’t get me wrong, Frazier is no Yoenis Cespedes. He won’t hit for a high average (217/304/486 slash line). He is slow footed. While he has played elsewhere in the field, he is best suited to third base; meaning that other players on the Met roster need to shift to make room for him. Here is what he does do: he hits homeruns. 28 so far this year for the Sox, a year after hitting 35 for the Reds. He is probably the best the Mets can get in their increasingly difficult task of defending their NL crown—at least without sacrificing one of their young starters or a really good prospect. He offers true protection for Cespedes and if Lucas Duda comes back anytime soon, the Mets may have enough power to compensate for an otherwise putrid offense, giving the remnants of starting pitching staff a break from having to be nearly perfect on each outing.

I get the irony of trading for a player who is the 2016 Met offense in a nutshell, but what’s a boy to do? They can’t overhaul the team on the fly and it is way too early, in my estimation at least, to pull the plug on some of the younger regulars who have been struggling this year. Imagine the hue and cry should the Wilmers, the d’Arnauds or the Confortos of the world reach their potential elsewhere.

Frazier is signed through this year at $8.2M. He is arbitration-eligible this offseason and then a Free Agent after 2017. Walker is making $10m and is gone after this year. The White Sox didn’t exactly surrender any jewels from their farm system to get Frazier last year, so they actually take a step forward with Flexen and Ynoa. The Mets can move the Wilmer Flores/Jose Reyes third base platoon to second base. Frazier also serves as a semi-stopgap in 2017 if Cespedes bolts or if David Wright still isn’t ready (or retires).

It’s a relatively safe move and the offer might be better than anything else Hahn might get for Frazier. I’d make this move, would you?

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Recent history suggests this week is crucial for Mets

2010-2012 Mets

 

Do you remember the 2010 Mets?

Through 90 games, the offense offered a lot to like: Jose Reyes leading off, David Wright having regained his power stroke, hotshot rookie Ike Davis impressing at the plate and in the field, and Angel Pagan seemingly coming into his own at age 28. On the mound, Johan Santana was still more or less Johan Santana, a new splitter had suddenly made Mike Pelfrey great again, 23-year-old lefty Jon Niese was more than holding his own, and R.A. Dickey was a revelation. Francisco Rodriguez was closing out wins, Pedro Feliciano was retiring a lefty or two every single day, and Hisanori Takahashi was the best swing man in the league.

The team’s record: 48-42.

Over the next 10 games, they went 3-7, effectively ending their playoff hopes, and beginning a spiral down below .500.

Carlos Beltran came off the DL but couldn’t play defense, Pagan shifted over to RF, hurting the team defensively at two positions, and neither guy hit down the stretch. Santana tired, K-Rod punched his father-in-law, Reyes pulled an oblique, and it was a sad September in Queens.

Do you remember the 2011 Mets?

Through 90 games, they were clutching out, keeping postseason hopes alive despite an underwhelming roster. With Santana and Ike Davis injured and Wright playing poorly through pain, the Mets nevertheless managed to string their hits together, taking quality AB after quality AB in big spots. They scored runs despite mediocre batting stats, and many were praising Dave Hudgens as a genius. With Jose Reyes putting up an MVP-type year, Lucas Duda getting a full-time job after crushing AAA Buffalo with a 1.011 OPS, and three apparent breakouts in progress (Bobby Parnell, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy), the Mets had hope that if their starting pitching could just perform to their abilities, they’d have a chance.

The team’s record: 46-44.

Over the next 10 games, they went 4-6, effectively ending their playoff hopes, and beginning a spiral down below .500.

A 4-6 stretch is hardly ever the end of the world, but 50-50 is too mediocre a record too late in the season to come back from. Especially when none of the starters turn it around, Wright doesn’t heal, Parnell regresses, Murphy gets hurt, and Duda can’t play RF.

Do you remember the 2012 Mets?

Through 90 games, Wright was raking, Scott Hairston was raking, Dickey was throwing one-hitters, Ike Davis was on his way back after finding himself in the minors, and a finally-healthy Murphy was still teasing us with .300 promise. The futures of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada still looked promising, and there was Matt Harvey to look forward to. Optimism abounded for how the second half would be better than the first.

The team’s record: 46-44.

Over the next 10 games, they went 2-8, effectively ending their playoff hopes, and beginning a spiral down below .500.

Wright couldn’t keep it up. Tejada and Murphy and Captain Kirk didn’t live up to the big expectations. Dickey willed himself to 20 wins, and Ike and Harvey put up numbers, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Are you worried about the 2016 Mets?

Through 90 games, there have been ups and downs. There have been great performances and disappointments. There is a lot of hope for a playoff run, but much of it rests on things improving — hurt players getting healthy, slumping players turning it around, hyped players living up to the hype. I’m finding it uncomfortably familiar.

The team’s record: 48-42.

Over the next 10 games, what will they do (so far they’re 2-2)? The answer may well decide their season. This upcoming series against the Marlins is big.

What will give the 2016 Mets the best chance to finish strong? If history is any guide, juggling outfielders and betting on improved health is not it.

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The Qualifying Offer Revisited

Daniel Murphy is slashing 348/387/598 for the Washington Nationals so far this season. He is leading the NL in batting average and if current trends continue, will be one of the front-runners for the league MVP. It isn’t a stretch to state that the Nats owe a large part of their current situation (first place in the NL East by six games) to his presence.

Meanwhile, his former team is languishing in a second place tie and looking at a difficult road back to the post-season. Injuries to a pair of their corner infielders are part of the reason for this. Both are positions Murphy can competently play. He wouldn’t win a Gold Glove at either and he is good for a major lapse or two, but with that slash line, no one could really complain.

It says here that if Murphy was still a Met that they and the Nats would be in each other’s current position as the baseball’s second half begins. I’ll wager that you can probably find a lot of off the record comments from Met officials and players expressing regret that Daniel got away. But I wonder how Murphy must feel about his current financial situation (and his agent).

In case you’ve forgotten, Murphy wrapped up a long and checkered Mets career with a stunning performance in the NLDS and NLCS. He became a free agent after the World Series. The Mets, eyeing younger options at second and believing they had permanent solutions at first and third, made a decision to move on from Daniel. They did however make him a Qualifying Offer, which is a one-year $16M contract. What the Mets really wanted was the draft pick. Murphy declined and signed a $37M deal with Washington on Christmas Eve.

In retrospect Murphy should have taken the Mets offer. His Washington salary for this year is half of what the QO was. He is due $12M next year and $18M in 2018. A little fun with math: Murphy’s deal cost him $8M this year. Coming off an MVP season this winter, wouldn’t he be in line for another $50m or so and an extra year? In other words, he has potentially cheated himself out of $20 to $28 million more in salary by taking Washington’s offer instead of New York’s.

So, there’s a new Murphy’s Law: don’t automatically reject the Qualifying Offer. Murphy was a good Met player coming off a stupendous post-season run. He followed conventional wisdom and rejected the offer. As a result he had to “settle” for a $37M offer from Washington. He could have doubled his 2015 salary for one year this year, while increasing his value exponentially for the next contract. He should fire his agent. The Nats as good as they are, are largely unknowns in their market behind Golden Boy Bryce. Murph would have had his face and his name everywhere here if he’d stayed. His loss and ours.

Oh and that draft pick the Mets got? It’s a pitcher with a sore arm.

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Baseball Instruction from OnBaseball
Mets Pitching Injuries NOT Due to 2015 Hangover

Mets Pitching Injuries NOT Due to 2015 Hangover

15

The latest in a series of arm injuries suffered by Mets starting pitchers has struck Jacob deGrom, who will miss his next start due to forearm tightness and elbow inflammation. ...

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Matz Shoulder and Elbow Issues Directly Related

Matz Shoulder and Elbow Issues Directly Related

10

Steven Matz has been pitching nearly the entire season with an elbow issue -- going back to the forearm tightness he experienced way back in early May. The forearm tightness ...

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What’s NOT Wrong with Matt Harvey and How To Fix What Is

What’s NOT Wrong with Matt Harvey and How To Fix What Is

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Tonight Matt Harvey faces Stephen Strasburg. Normally that would be an exciting sentence for Mets fans, Nationals fans -- heck, baseball fans in general. Instead, it's a ...

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How Zack Wheeler Could Have Avoided Tommy John Surgery

How Zack Wheeler Could Have Avoided Tommy John Surgery

The good news: Zack Wheeler underwent "successful" Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL tendon and a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. "He is expected to make a full ...

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Why There Are So Many Pitching Injuries This Time Of Year

Why There Are So Many Pitching Injuries This Time Of Year

1

More pitching injuries occur from spring training through the first month of the season -- do you know why? There is at least one reason, and despite what you may remember of Tim ...

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Mets Gifts

This Looks Like it Could Be a MetsToday Hat

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This hat is called Nike New York Mets Royal Blue Heritage 86 Cooperstown Vintage Relaxed Mesh Back Adjustable Hat I kind of like the logo, don't you? Not sure I'm ready to go back to the mesh back and adjustable snap-back style that I wore exclusively from age 6 to 18. Retro is cool, I guess, but, isn't it lame ...

My Nephew Says This Mets Hat is the Bomb

8.5 mets-nike-hat

I need a new baseball cap; my old Mets hats were worn out and gross and have been donated to charity. So I'm in the market for one. My nephew says the above Mets cap is "the bomb." It's called the New York Mets Nike Royal L91 Alpha Swoosh Relaxed Flex Hat. If you like it, click on the hat and it will take you to ...