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Now that’s more like it…Noah Syndergaard throwing strikes, Jeurys Familia slamming the door shut and GKR behind the mike. The Mets blanked the Royals 2-0.
First off, Interleague play sucks! So does opening the season on a Sunday night. Whatever happened to the good ole fashioned kickoff in Cincinnati every year? Sorry to sound like such a curmudgeon, but Sunday’s opener, with all of it’s non-traditional elements, felt like just another exhibition game. Given the fact that the Mets just wrapped up perhaps the least interesting Spring Training since the “ReplaceMets” fiasco in 1995, I never felt that the first game was for real. Tuesday’s game felt more like the turning of a page to me and now the season (and the defense of the NL Pennant), can begin.
If he can stay healthy, Syndergaard could be something very special. In actuality, the game belonged to the Mets after he stranded Alicides Escobar at third after the latter lead off the first inning with a triple. Syndergaard seemingly toyed with the Royals’ lineup for the rest of his outing. Neil Walker, who I think will prove to be a great pickup, provided all the runs “Thor” needed. Not to be overlooked are the performances of Jim Henderson and Addison Reed. It will be interesting to see if those two veterans can provide the bridge to Familia.
On the flip side, I started to feel a tightening in my guts during the middle and late innings as the game tension mounted. I wonder what shape we’ll be in later this season.
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New job duties and the ever-challenging role of raising a teenager have made me somewhat less Met-obsessed these past few months. Those factors, along with the sudden return of winter to these parts, kept me in a definite non-baseball mood for most of yesterday. I dutifully tuned in, somewhat disgruntled that instead of SNY, I will be forced to endure the crew at ESPN, although I do like Jessica Mendoza. By the way, whatever happened to Jeanne Zelasko?
I did expect the Mets to come out smoking after being forced to watch the Royals pennant raising celebration. Silly me. Instead, they sleepwalked through the first eight innings before erupting late and then falling victim to KC’s super bullpen in the 9th. You can read Dave’s recap for more details. My main concern is that after a very somnambulant spring, they looked sluggish and especially in the case of Yoenis Cespedes, downright disinterested in playing baseball.
And no, this isn’t a premature “Panic City” piece. This is a history lesson. As my bio states, I have been a Mets fan since the days of the Nixon Administration. I have seen a lot of bad baseball, punctuated by brief bursts of elation. It’s the coming down from the peak that has me concerned. I clearly remember my father’s comments about how bland and boring the mid-70’s Mets were. The post ’86 editions played like all they had to do was toss their gloves out on the field and they would win (they didn’t). The events of 9/11 made the ’01 Mets a little hard to gauge, but they didn’t play well before that terrible day. The collapses of ’07 and ’08 are still fresh in almost everyone’s minds. Could we be heading for another disappointment this year?
The record indicates that we could be.
Royals 4 Mets 3
Wait, is the World Series still going on? This looked awfully familiar.
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After reading the replies to a recent article here on MetsToday (Who are 2016’s Ten Most Important Mets?), I’ve come up with final rankings for this exercise, which I’ll proceed through in countdown fashion. For each player, I’ll list my subjective predictions, based on watching nearly every inning and every plate appearance over the last few years. I’ll do my best to identify something that I think the national experts and pundits have missed.
Second installment: Mets No. 6-4
Third installment: Mets No. 3-1
The table data below is pulled from FanGraphs. Steamer and ZiPS are two player projection systems with as good a track record as any. The “Off” and “Def” columns are included to illustrate how the projections arrive at their WAR numbers. Note: “Def” includes a positional adjustment, where d’Arnaud’s numbers get a boost simply from playing catcher while Granderson’s numbers take a hit simply from playing right field.
#10. Sandy Alderson
We all know how crucial 2015’s deadline deals were to reshaping the team. Alderson acted to address multiple needs, and all his moves paid big dividends in the short term. With the 2016 National League boasting a number of teams that look great on paper, it’s unlikely that the Mets will simply run away with a playoff spot, meaning that adjustment on the fly should be important once again. If the Mets are neck and neck with another playoff hopeful in late July, Mets fans should certainly hope the trade deadline will unfold more like 2015 than 2007 or 2008. Standing pat in 2008 allowed that team’s holes — primarily a weak bullpen — to ultimately destroy their season.
While some may focus on the Wilpons’ purse strings and how those set the parameters for any deals, I suspect there’s plenty of room for things to go well or poorly within any given budget for trade acquisitions. Uribe, Johnson, Clippard, Reed and Cespedes were all the right players at the right times, but we shouldn’t forget the cost or the luck involved. When the time came to trade Scott Hairston and Bobby Parnell, rough analogs to Uribe-Johnson and Tyler Clippard, Alderson claimed he couldn’t find any worthwhile return, and thus stood pat. Then, on the other side of that equation, he parted with John Gant and Casey Meisner, two pitchers who many now view as having futures as MLB starters. That might be more a reflection on the lack of a coherent plan in 2011-2012 than on what Alderson will do going forward, but in the context of Alderson’s Mets tenure, it’s one more note of caution. Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez is a bigger red flag, and the attempt to trade Zack Wheeler for Jay Bruce is bigger still.
No longer having a surplus of arms to deal from, and with few minor league Mets position players who other teams would want, Alderson mostly stays passive at the deadline. Maybe an athletic A-ball shortstop gets shipped out for a roll-of-the-dice bullpen arm.
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Should Mets fans be worried about the team’s showing in Florida? After all, the Mets finished their Grapefruit League schedule with a 7-16 record (and 5 ties) – not exactly the best indicator of a talented team on a mission.
In 2015, spring training went much differently. It began with voluntary offseason Mike Barwis workouts, which had a large number of Mets position players coming into camp gushing with confidence about how they’d have a physical edge over their opponents. Next up was all the talk about “no one expects us to win, but we expect to win” and fire and energy and a new and improved hitting coach, which segued into a raging hot start at the plate. For the first half of Spring Training 2015, the Mets looked like the 1927 Yankees. Even when the bats cooled against better pitching, the team kept winning, finishing a Florida-best 19-12. When the regular season began, the Mets started out 13-3, and it was that stretch that kept their season record near .500 and the playoffs within reach despite a poor May and June.
Contrast that to 2016. The talk has been just about the only element in common. “Getting that close to winning the World Series makes us even hungrier!” Well, that sure didn’t manifest in the results. As a whole, the Mets did not hit well, or pitch well, or field well, or run the bases with any great skill. As other teams rounded into form, the Mets did not, failing to win any of their last 13 games. The news out of camp has been about cars and contracts and diminished velocities and bumps and bruises and bladders and last year. Are these the warning sings of a team that’s coasting? Or perhaps a team that’s not that good?
Here’s my take: