The Mets Buy the Chiefs

From 1969 through 2006, the Mets triple A farm club was located in Norfolk Virginia.  Originally known as the Tidewater Tides, then the Norfolk Tides, the 38 year affiliation was the longest running minor league club in franchise history.  But following a disagreement with Mets ownership, the Norfolk Tides bid adieu to the Mets, signing a deal with the Baltimore Orioles for the 2007 season.  Since then the Mets have been the foil in a game of AAA musical chairs.

Because there are only thirty AAA teams, MLB parent clubs sometimes do not have a choice as to where their AAA affiliate will be.  The only open seat available in 2007 was the New Orleans Zephyrs, a Pacific Coast League club.  This posed a series of problems for the Mets because none of the Zephyrs’ games took place in the Eastern Time zone with many played on the west coast.  The distance to shuttle players back and forth, to and from Flushing was often problematic.  Ideally a team would want their AAA and AA clubs as close as possible for the simply reason of retrieving players as quickly as possible, especially in the case of emergencies.

Following the two years in New Orleans, the Mets were able to grab a seat back in the International League table as they landed in Buffalo New York.  This was a much more desirable location for the Mets since International League clubs are no further west than Indianapolis and further south than Gwinnett Georgia.  However, two things hurt the Mets while in Buffalo.  One, the Mets farm system was not very good with the AAA Bisons finishing in last place twice, the highest being third place, their second year in Buffalo.  Two, with the Toronto Blue Jays just 100 miles away from Buffalo, there are lots of Blue Jays fans in the western part of New York State.  The Buffalo ownership wanted a more competitive team with closer fan ties to a major league affiliate.  A deal was struck between the Bisons and Toronto leaving the Mets out in the cold once again.

The only franchise left available at the time was the Las Vegas 51s, a place where pitchers go to die.  The Pacific Coast League is a notorious hitter’s league.  It’s worse in Vegas with the high altitude and dry air.  Simply put, Vegas is not a great place for young pitchers to hone their skills in an organization trying to build around pitching.  Plus the ballpark in Vegas, Cashman Field, is considered one of the worst in triple A.  Because of the hot dry conditions, the field is like concrete making infield play a daunting task.  But the Mets had no choice except to wait for an opportunity to hopefully get back to the International League.  Minor league affiliate deals are typically two to four years in length.  After two seasons in Vegas, with no opportunities available again, the Mets had no choice but to stay.  In an announcement in 2016, the Mets said that the relationship between the major league club and 51s was beneficial to both.  Of course this was nothing more than PR.  The Mets desperately wanted out of Las Vegas but with nowhere to go they had to suck it up and make it sound like they were glad to be staying put.

During the last couple of seasons of so many injuries, moving players from Las Vegas or another Pacific Coast League city, when the 51s were on the road, required a lot more travel time, cost, and logistics.  But more importantly evaluating players was more difficult when playing in conditions so alien compared to where the home team play their games.

Citi Field is at sea level where conditions are often cold, wet, hot and humid (let’s hope it’s not below sea level in the coming warming years).  Air pressure and climate affect the way a ball is thrown and hit.  Prospects with good stuff are often pounded playing in desert conditions.  Breaking balls do not behave the way they are supposed to when at high elevations in dry conditions.  Just ask any Colorado Rockies’ pitchers.  On the contrary, not so talented hitters benefit from desert conditions.  Quite simply, it makes the evaluation of talent by the front office difficult.  Ultimately an MLB club wants their prospects growing up and playing in conditions similar if not exactly like those they will experience at the major league lever for 81 plus games.

In order to create a better AAA situation, the Mets would need to be creative and insure a path back to the International League, hopefully as close to the city as possible.  This week the Mets did both of those things and give them credit for taking charge of the problem.

One way to get back into the IL would be to buy a franchise.  A team cannot create a new franchise because there can only be thirty clubs.  Typically MLB clubs sign a deal known as a PDC (player development contract) with a minor league team to develop their players.  The major league club hires the general manager, manager, and coaches and builds the roster with players that mostly come through the MLB and International amateur drafts.  A MLB club also subsidizes the expense of running team operations making the relationship desirable.  The benefit owners have of affiliated teams over independent minor league teams is that major league clubs defray the cost.  PDCs are typically two to four years in length.  When the contract expires, ownership of the minor league club is free to negotiate a new deal with the same club or another major league team.  An MLB club not owning the affiliate makes themselves vulnerable to being moved out by another team.  That was the case when the Mets were forced to New Orleans then to Nevada.

The Mets took care of business this week by purchasing the Syracuse Chiefs, the longtime AAA team that has made the upstate New York town home since 1961*.  This is a great move for many reasons.  It puts future AAA Mets players in close proximity, playing in identical climate conditions to that of Queens.  Mets players need to experience playing in cold wet Aprils in the northeast as opposed to comfortable warm conditions in the desert.  Plus, the Mets AAA team moves from a dilapidated run down ballpark in Nevada to one of the finest facilities in all of AAA baseball.  NBT Bank Stadium, opened in 1997, is a double deck ballpark modeled after the modern retro ballparks of the modern era.  It’s been well manicured over the years and is a first class baseball stadium.  And surely now that the Mets own the club, they will certainly want to help the city of Syracuse keep the ballpark pristine.**  Most importantly of course is the distance between Citi Field and Syracuse.  It’s just 260 miles, a mere one hour and five minute flight.  That’s quite a difference compared to the 2500 miles to Vegas, a five and a half hour plane ride.  Once in Syracuse, the furthest a AAA Mets player will be from New York is when the Chiefs play in Gwinnett, Georgia, a two hour flight away.

Another benefit to being in Syracuse is that it puts front office personal in a position to easily visit their triple A club and see firsthand who may be ready to come up.  It also places a third Mets minor league club in the state of New York.  The Binghamton (AA) Rumble Ponies are only one and a half hours away from Syracuse by car.  When the Mets want to see a double A starter try out triple A hitters, it’s going to be a much simpler logistic.  The Mets also have their short season A club in Brooklyn.  They are building their brand throughout the state of New York with their top two farm clubs in upstate New York and their low level A club a borough away from Citi Field.  Come 2018, all Mets farm clubs will play home games in the Eastern Time Zone with away games no further than the Central.

This is a win-win for the Mets.  Frankly I’m rather shocked they were able to pull off a deal like this considering the often confused state of affairs within Mets ownership.  Now if they can just incorporate that kind of thinking into the roster and health conditioning, we’ll have something to cheer for.

Of course the move to Syracuse does not happen until after next season.  In 2018 the Mets will still be in Vegas playing out their final season in the desert.

*The Chiefs actually began in the 1930s but eventually moved.  In 1961 the franchise was re-established with the ’62 Mets being affiliated with them.

**I’ve read that the Mets will be at NBT Bank Stadium through 2025 which leads me to believe they do not own the stadium, just the franchise.  This just means that the Mets will renegotiate a new lease with the city at that time.  Of course since the Mets own the team, they could always opt to move it elsewhere but that would seem doubtful.

Games of Importance of the Last Weekend

It’s hard to believe that six months have passed and that the end of the regular baseball season is upon us.  And of course for Mets fans, there is no more baseball come Monday.  This was one of the most disappointing seasons in a very long time.  Expectations were so high but injuries completely derailed the season and the pitching staff completely fell apart.  Only Jacob deGrom managed to stay on the field the entire season.  Noah Syndergaard, lost since April 30, Matt Harvey, on the DL for a good chunk of the season,  Steven Matz and Zach Wheeler both had their seasons end early.  Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman underperformed too compared to their work from the end of last season.  Closer Jeurys Familia was lost for most of the season after a blood clot was fixed in his shoulder.  The rest of the bullpen couldn’t hold a slim lead and what we ended up with was a season to forget.  In games when the Mets scored three runs or less, the team went 6-53.

Of course we hope this was just a stumbling block, an aberration, that next year things will get back on track and the Mets will contend again.  Before that, there will be a lot of changes.  The Mets will have a new manager and coaching staff and there will be some personnel changes on the field as well.  But that discussion is for another day.

There still is baseball to follow if you so wish in 2017.  So here are the important games of the final weekend.  And to add insult to injury the first one involves the dreaded cross town rival Yankees.

1-Blue Jays vs. Yankees (1:05) – Yankee haters will be rooting for the Jays to do to the Yanks what they just did to the Red Sox. The Sox magic number is 1 meaning if the Yankees lose just one game this weekend or the Sox win just one, then Boston is the ALE Champ and the Yanks will host the Twins Tuesday at the Stadium in the AL Wildcard game.  Kudos to the Yanks for playing an afternoon game today—ah the good ole days.

2-White Sox vs. Indians (7:10) – The Tribe wants home field advantage and they have a shot at winning it playing the White Sox who have had another down year.  Cleveland has a one game lead over Houston so who gets most of the home games may not be decided until Sunday.

3-Astros vs. Red Sox (7:10) – As mentioned above, the BoSox need one win to wrap up their second consecutive division title but Houston wants home field advantage.  The Astros who are playing very well down the stretch having won 8 of their last 10 and their last 4 in a row.  Of course if the Jays take just one game from the Yankees, the Sox will back into the division title.  Interestingly if the Red Sox and Yankees are tied after Sunday, there will be a one game playoff on Monday to determine division and first wildcard winner.  This is a new rule that went into effect in 2012.  Prior, the team with the better regular season head to head record would be declared the division champ.  The head to head record does have some bearing on a playoff game however.  The Yankees won the season series against Boston 11-8 and because of that would host the one game playoff on Monday in the Bronx.  If that happens, do you think Bucky F. Dent can throw out the first pitch?

4-Dodgers vs. Rockies (8:10) – The Rockies have a magic number of 2 to clinch the NL second wildcard.  LA has already clinched home field advantage so expect them to rest players and get ready for the post season.  That doesn’t mean they are going to simply role over for the Rox however.  The former Brooklyn Bums are 7-9 vs. Colorado this season.

5-Brewers vs. Cardinals (8:15) – The Brewers are 2 back of Colorado with 3 to play.  It’s a longshot for the Brewers who have gone 5-5 in their last 10.  The Cardinals were eliminated from participating in the post season last night after losing to the Cubs.  St. Louis’s only incentive will be to deny Milwaukee.  It’s a longshot for Milwaukee but at least their playing meaningful games the last weekend of the season.

So of the 15 games being played each day of the last three days of the season, five have significance for at least today.  If Boston wins or the Yankees lose today then there will be two less games of interest over the weekend since Boston cannot win home field and the Yanks will be locked into the first wildcard.

Nine of ten post season teams have been decided.  By the end of Sunday all will be set for baseball’s second season, one the Mets will not be involved with this year.

 

 

 

Today’s Games and Their Importance

Twins vs. Indians (12:10) – This game is only important to Cleveland.  They are one game ahead of the Astros for home field advantage through at least the first round.  With the Angels’ loss last evening, the Twins clinched the second wildcard and are locked into the fifth seed in the American League.  Either the Yankees or Red Sox will host the AL wildcard game.  Therefore this noon time game means nothing to the Twins.

Reds vs. Brewers (4:10) – The Cubs clinching win over St. Louis last night eliminated Milwaukee for the division.  The Brewers lost a little later last night. However they still have a very slim chance at the second wildcard. It will likely require a miracle. Colorado holds a magic number of 2 over the Brewers so Milwaukee cannot afford to lose and must hope that the Rockies go on a losing streak.

Pirates vs. Nationals (7:10) – This is a meaningless game.  Washington is the NLE division winner and is locked into the second seed in the NL.  Pittsburgh will look forward to the off season.

Rays vs. Yankees (7:05) – The Yankees continue to win putting a lot of pressure on the Red Sox.  The Sox won last night by scoring 10 runs.  But their pitching continues to falter having allowed 7 in last night’s win that reduced Boston’s magic number to 2.  So this is another important game for the Bombers who have at least secured the first wildcard while trailing Boston by 3 with 4 to play.

Astros vs. Red Sox (*7:10) – Boston must face one of the two toughest teams in the AL for a season ending four game set and hope to win two to clinch the AL East.  The Astros trail the Indians by one game for home field advantage so they will be out to spoil the Sox.

Cubs vs. Cardinals (7:15) – After celebrating last night at Busch Stadium, the Cubs will have their B lineup in place and that’s good news for St. Louis.  The Cards have to win out and hope that the Rockies and Brewers lose the rest of their games.  Realistically the Cardinals will be looking forward to next season.

A’s vs. Rangers (8:05), Angels vs. White Sox (8:10), Braves vs Marlins (7:10), and Tigers vs. Royals (8:15) are all meaningless games as these teams play out their schedules.

Walk Off and the Rest of Baseball

With the loss in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader, it secured the Mets’ 20th season in franchise history of 90 losses or more.  That’s 20 times in 56 seasons.  Contrast that with the number of times the Mets have won 90 or more.  That would be 10, the last being 2015 when the Mets won the National League pennant, two years ago yesterday.

The only thing left for the Mets to fight for this year is a draft pick for next season.  Of course that would require us to root for the Mets to lose.  As much as that might make some sense, who wasn’t thrilled as a Mets fan to see them actually pull off a walk-off win last night?

It was especially gratifying for Travis Taijeron, a twenty-eight year old minor leaguer who finally got his shot in the bigs.  His drive over the head of Braves’ left fielder Jace Peterson scored Juan Lagares from second for the Mets’ 68th win of the season.  For a rare occasion this season, Mets fans had something to cheer about.

Around the leagues…

With the introduction of the second wild card, more games have significance than ever before during the last week of the season.  Here’s a breakdown of tonight’s games and what their significance is.

Braves vs. Mets – Meaningless game, draft pick for both clubs on the line

Orioles vs. Pirates – Meaningless game, draft pick for both clubs on the line

Rays vs. Yankees – The Yanks have secured home field in the AL wildcard game with last night’s win over the Rays.  Also the Yankees still have a slim shot at the division but it would require Boston to falter down the stretch.  Don’t look now but the Yanks deficit has gone from 5 games to 3 in two days.  Boston has lost two in a row to Toronto.  They finish up with four against Houston while the Yanks close the regular season against Toronto.  Draft pick for Rays

Nationals vs. Phillies – Meaningless game in that last night’s loss by the Nats to the Phils combined with LA’s win guarantee the Nats to be the second seed in the National League.  DC will likely meet the Cubs in the first round but the Cubs have not clinched yet.  Draft pick for Phillies

Twins vs. Indians – The Twins need one more win to secure a meeting with the Yankees next Tuesday in the Bronx in the AL Wildcard game.  The Indians want home field advantage and have a one game lead over Houston who has gotten hot again.

Blue Jays vs. Red Sox – With a magic number of 3, Sox want another division crown but they have struggled against the Blues Jays this week.  They have four with Houston starting Thursday, ending the season at Fenway.  Draft pick for Jays

Reds vs. Brewers – The Brewers are hanging by a thread for the NL Central division title.  One loss or a Cubs win then it’s the second wild card or nothing.  The Brew-Crew trail the WC by 1.5 games.  Draft pick for Reds.

Astros vs. Rangers – Home field advantage for Astros, draft pick for Rangers

Angels vs. White Sox – Meaningless game, draft pick for both

Cubs vs. Cardinals – Cubs need a win to clinch their second division title in a row.  Cardinals are 2.5 out of wildcard, already eliminated from the division.

Tigers vs. Royals – Meaningless game, draft pick for both

Marlins vs. Rockies – Rox are trying to cling to the second wildcard lead. They have a magic number of 4. Draft pick for the Fish.

Giants vs. Diamondbacks – Meaningless game, Dbacks have clinched number one wildcard already.  The Dbacks will host NL wildcard game next Wednesday in Phoenix.  Draft pick for Giants.

Mariners at Athletics – Meaningless game, draft pick for both

Padres at Dodgers – Meaningless game, home field advantage has been clinched by LA with last night’s win.  Draft pick for Pads.

So with a half week left of the regular season, half of the games still have some relevance for the post season.  Years ago, prior to wildcard play, divisions were often settled by now making the rest of the regular season irrelevant.  The two wildcards add a lot of drama to the end of the season. Home field advantage also makes for interest as well.  And thankfully the powers that be came to their senses and finally ditched that stupid All Star game rule for World Series home field advantage.  Starting this season, the best overall team will get home field advantage in the Series.  So in a sense, even though the Indians and the Dodgers are not competing on the field yet, they are fighting it out for MLB’s best record.  If the top two teams in each league falter, the World Series home field advantage falls to the best teams left in play.  This is smart because it makes all teams play hard right through game 162.  Finally baseball got this right.

Reflections

It was supposed to be the pitching staff that teams dream of.  A rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Zach Wheeler, and Matt Harvey would dominate the National League and a handful of American League teams during the 2017 regular season culminating in a championship for the Mets.  Of course a lot depended on the health of these pitchers.  Wheeler had completed his recovery from Tommy John surgery but was shut down in Mid-August of 2016 with a flexor strain.  Matz had some bone spurs cleaned out last September ending his ‘16 season.  Harvey had missed half of last season after he underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, and even deGrom had his ulnar nerve moved in order to reduce irritation in the elbow.  But really, when thinking ahead toward the 2017 season last winter, what could go wrong?

Well just about everything.  And that was just with the starting staff.  The bullpen brought another host of issues into 2017 but the pen’s problems were compounded by the fact that Mets starters could not pitch deep into games.  It was a snowball effect that unwound this season early on making Mets fans wonder what the hell the front office thinking was.

If you don’t think that Sandy Alderson didn’t screw up last winter by not getting some help for the starting staff and bullpen then ask yourself why he traded off all his top players this summer for nothing but pitchers.  (It was just reported that Alderson will remain with the Mets next year.)  For the second time in franchise history, the prospect of a dream-team starting rotation fizzled exponentially.

I compare this current group of Mets underachievers to Generation-K as they came to be known.  I’m referring of course to Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson.  All three were heralded to be the next Seaver/Koosman/Matlack during the mid-1990s.  But it never happened.  Pulsipher missed all of 1996 and 1997 with a torn ulnar nerve.  Isringhausen suffered a host of injuries in 1996.  He missed all of ’98 recovering from Tommy John surgery as well.  Wilson too, plagued by injuries never contributed for the Mets.  Generation-K was a dismal failure and is often the go to metaphor when overzealous claims are made regarding young pitching phenomes throughout baseball.  Ironically the Mets finally sustained success in the late 90’s without really having a true ace on the pitching staff.

You realize of course that the rotation of deGrom/Thor/Wheeler/Matz/Harvey have not once started five games consecutively—ever!  Any notion that this will finally happen next season must be completely thrown out the window.  Simply put if Alderson and the Wilpons do not spend to bolster the rotation, you might just want to reconsider those season tickets.  Consider that heading into the off season there still are many questions surrounding these four of five starters.  Certainly deGrom has legitimized himself as the true ace of the staff.  While Syndergaard may be a more dominant pitcher than deGrom, the lat injury that occurred at the end of April that basically ended his season creates some concern regarding 2018. With correct baseball oriented conditioning, Noah should be okay. We’ll see.

Will Wheeler ever be completely healed?  He has been shut down this season because of a “stress reaction” in his right arm whatever the heck that means.  Matz had surgery to move the ulnar nerve to reduce irritation in the elbow.  It’s the same surgery deGrom had last season.  But will Matz’s surgery produce the same positive result that it did for deGrom?  Then of course there is Harvey.  Is his career over or does he need to figure out his command all over again?  Are you willing to let the Mets roll the dice and hope Matt can become the Dark Knight again, that all these pitchers can live up to their potential?

One would hope that deGrom and Syndergaard will be healthy and anchor the staff.  Those two could be a one-two punch envied in all of baseball.  Of the three left plus Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, you would think that one of those five will be able to be a third of fourth starter.  (Sorry, I’m still not a believer in Rafael Montero regardless of his more recent successes.)  Beyond that anything would be gravy.  Therefore Alderson is going to have to go out and get a couple of reputable starting pitchers.  There are a number of free agent pitchers that will be available after the World Series concludes this fall.  The question is will the Mets make an effort to sign a couple of them or will they roll the dice again and hope for the best.  Advanced tickets sales will depend on the answer to that question.  As the saying goes—“fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”.

The Mets really do not need to spend a lot of money on offense.  As long as Yoenis Cespedes trains in a more baseball appropriate way, he will solidify the lineup.  An outfield of Cespedes, Lagares (because he’s the best center fielder on the team) and Conforto is formidable.  Or perhaps Nimmo until Conforto comes back.  Dominic Smith and Ahmed Rosario are looking to be the players as advertised.  Asdrubal Cabrera has been hitting and playing third base very well.  He’s an economical solution if the Mets pick up his option and want to spend on pitching.  Mike Moustakas is going to be a very expensive proposition and that money will be better spent on pitching.  Also there are enough in-house options to man second base.   A catching duo of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki might be as good as what will be available on the market.  Plawecki is a better hitter since coming back from AAA and that seems to have motivated Mr. d’Arnaud.  The Mets offense was not the problem this season.  With a good pitching staff, they scored enough runs to win.  Currently the Mets are sixth in the majors in homeruns and number one in the NL.  They are tied with the Dodgers in RBI at seventh, the difference being that the Dodgers pitched and the Mets didn’t.  I’m not saying the Mets offense is going to make anyone forget the Yankees’ Murderous Row of the late 1920’s but they produced enough offense to at the very least be in a wildcard position.

Here’s another indication of pitching being the primary culprit in 2017.  Of the 152 games played this season so far, the Mets scored four or more runs in 97 of them with a record of 60-37 (.619).  That’s very good and it’s the best split you can find regarding this forgettable season.  However, when scoring three runs or less in 55 games the Mets are 5-50 (.091) OUCH!  The number of games where the Mets starters and pen could not hold a slim lead is too daunting to recount.  The numbers speak for themselves.  Most teams have losing records when scoring three runs or less but winning only five of them is very bad.  This is a stat I have been harping on all season.  Why stop now?

Last season the Mets won the number one wildcard.  In games scoring three runs or less their record was 22-56 (.282).  Not great but 22 is a lot better than 5.  Add 17 wins to this season’s record and the result is an 82-70 mark and today the Mets would be tied with St. Louis 1.5 games back of the second wildcard.  That would certainly make for a more exciting final week instead of the reality that lies ahead.

Ask a GM what are the three most important aspects of baseball and he will respond (all together now) pitching, pitching, and more pitching.  Clearly in 2017 the Mets simply did not have nearly enough pitching to take them to the playoffs.  Chalk up another losing season in Mets history, merely the 31st in 56 seasons—simply  dreadful.

Dodgers Rivaling 2007 Mets

Can the Dodgers actually supplant the Mets for the worst collapse in baseball history?  It’s doubtful but with every mounting loss by LA, the possibility looks more possible.

Ten years ago, the Mets suffered what many feel was the worst collapse in baseball history.  On the close of play on September 12, 2007, the Mets had just defeated the Atlanta Braves by a score of 4-3.  They held a 7 game lead over Philadelphia with just 17 games left to play.  With a record of 83-62 it was a foregone conclusion that the Mets would win their second Eastern Division title in back to back seasons for the first time in franchise history.

We all know what happened.  In fact it’s too painful to even think about.  The Mets pitching collapsed and the club went an unbearable 5-12 the rest of the way.  Meanwhile the Philadelphia Phillies went 12-4 down the stretch.  The Mets were defeated by the last place Florida Marlins on the last day of the season, fan appreciation day at Shea Stadium.  The loss with the Phillies’ last day win ended the Mets’ season.

The 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers will still likely win the National League West but the discussion of a collapse cannot be discounted.

On August 25 of this season, the Dodgers’ record was 91-36, 55 games over .500.  They led the second place Arizona Diamondbacks by 21 games.  LA looked as if they would set the all-time season win total in baseball history, surpassing the Seattle Mariners’ 116 wins of 2001. However, since that date the Dodgers have gone 1-16 having lost their last 11 in a row.  More importantly their lead has shrunk from 21 games to 9, a 12 game swing!  Now with a 9 game lead with 18 to play, one would think the Dodgers will still lock up the division.  But isn’t that what we thought about our Mets back in 2007?

Last evening, the Dodgers were defeated again by the last place San Francisco Giants.  All of a sudden the Dodgers can’t pitch or hit.  What is going on?

Curtis Granderson must have thought he died and went to heaven when he was traded from the disappointing Mets to the stellar Dodgers.  Grandy made his first appearance in Dodger blue on August 19 in Detroit.  Curtis went 0-4 but scored a run in another Dodger win.  Since Granderson went to the Dodgers, their record has been 6-18.  When you combine that with the Mets record at the time of the trade, Granderson has suffered through a 59-85 season, worse than the current Mets record of 63-80.  Of course no one is blaming the Dodger’s woes on Granderson.  There are many culprits including the Dodgers pitching staff.  Even Clayton Kershaw couldn’t stop the slide when he was battered around by the Dbacks upon his second start after returning from the DL.  The only win the Dodgers have enjoyed during this stretch however was Kershaw’s first game back.

It’s clear if the Dodgers blow this thing, they will surpass the 2007 Mets and the 1964 Phillies as the all-time team of chokers.  But the likelihood is still a longshot considering the Dodgers large lead with little games left to play.  Also, even if the Dodgers lose the division, they likely would be one of the two wildcards.  LA’s lead over the Cardinals, the team trailing the second wildcard, is 16.5 games.  With 18 to play the Dodgers simply have to win 3 games to get into the playoffs.  That would be 95 wins for LA and enough to secure at least one of two wildcards.  The 2007 Mets did not have the luxury of a second wild card as they were shutout from the playoffs altogether.

As for the Dodgers however, after flirting with the most wins in regular season play, anything less than a division title would be devastating.  Let’s not forget the Dodgers’ payroll of 242 million dollars is the largest in the Major Leagues.  While the Dodgers have spent the most money in recent years, it has not been enough to get them the World Series trophy for the first time since 1988. If the Dodgers do not win it all this October, there will likely be a lot of heads rolling at Chavez Ravine.

On August 19, everyone assumed this was the Dodgers’ year.  But after this slide and considering the Dodgers have not even gotten to the World Series after winning the NL West title for four consecutive years now, LA’s dream season may just be the biggest nightmare in franchise history.  And we thought that something like this could only happen to the Mets.

Update 9/13:   The one thing I forgot to account for was the interaction between St. Louis and Milwaukee. The results of games played between these two clubs would effect the Dodgers securing a playoff spot.  With last night’s win by the Dodgers over the Giants, LA clinched a playoff spot no worse than the second wildcard.  That’s because the Cardinals and Brewers have three games together at the end of the season.  Regardless of who wins or loses that series, one team will be eliminated from being able to overtake the Dodgers for a playoff spot.  So the Dodgers will not replace the Mets as the all-time last minute chokers.  However, the Dodgers could still blow the division although they have regained a 10 game lead after Arizona lost to the Rockies last evening.  With a 10 game lead and only 17 to play, it will be a Herculean effort for the Dodgers to blow this thing.

Down Organization

This has been a bad season for the Mets organization all around.  Not only did the Mets fall flat on their face in 2017, most of the farm system played exceptionally poor as well.  It makes a Mets fan wonder what the future of this organization is now that Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith have been promoted to the major league roster.

Here are the final regular season numbers for the Mets farm clubs.  The Las Vegas 51’s finished in last place of the Pacific Coast League’s Southern Division with a record of 56-86. The St. Lucie Mets, the organizations’ high A team of the Florida State League finished a combined record of 63-75. They were 33-35 in the first half, enough to keep them out of last place but 10 games under .500 in the second.  The Columbia Fireflies, the South Atlantic’s Mets’ A team entrant finished an overall 68-70 but were 28-42 in the second half after a 40-28 first half second place finish.  Promotions at this level often change the fortunes of the second half season.

The Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York Penn League (short season A) currently have a dreadful 24-50 record (games continue through Thursday).  Needless to say, the Cyclones have locked up last place in the McNamara Division.  The Appalachian League’s Kingsport Mets (rookie) ended next to the bottom with a 29-37 record and the Gulf Coast Mets finished their rookie league season in last place with a 19-37 record.

The one bright spot was the Binghamton Rumble Ponies who made the playoffs as a wildcard in the AA Eastern League.  The Ponies finished with an outstanding record of 85-54 and will face the Trenton Thunder (Yankees) in the first round of the playoffs beginning this evening weather permitting .  The Mets minor league clubs finished a collective 344-408 (.457) for the season.

While it’s not a sure thing that win-loss records of minor league clubs dictate the future stars of an organization, in the Mets case it might be telling.  Because not only did the Mets minor league clubs perform so badly but only Amed Rosario (2) and Dominic Smith (40) ranked as MLB’s top 100 prospects and they have already been promoted.  Now there are no Mets prospects in the top 100.  Baseball America is also in agreement regarding the Mets farm.

The one bright spot in the Mets farm is in the Dominican Summer League.  The Mets have two teams there and they both went a collective 94-48 (.662).  One club, the Mets2, won their division while the Mets 1 came in second in their division.  Perhaps the Mets have some bright stars acquired through the international draft but we’ll see.

What this all means is if the Mets are to improve dramatically next season and get back on track, they are going to have to do so by getting healthy and getting players from outside the organization.  The Mets cannot assume next season, that the five alleged studs in the rotation will all be healthy and perform to their potential.  There has been no benchmark for that.  They cannot assume that David Wright can contribute anything ever again.  Also the Mets cannot even assume that Michael Conforto will be ready for opening day.  In fact I think the Mets have to assume that what they have seen in Travis d’Arnaud so far is what they are going to get moving forward.  He may never be the catcher the organization had hoped for.

After the Mets won the pennant just two years ago, it seemed as if it was the start of a great era of New York Mets baseball.  But last year’s disappointing ouster in the wildcard game and this year’s debacle have made everyone who follows this team wonder if there will ever be any hope?

It is not going to be easy moving forward for the Mets.  Next season, the Braves, Marlins, and even the Phillies are going to be better.  The Nationals are built for the long haul.  The Wilpons better be willing to open the vault or the Mets could be sitting on the bottom of the pile for years to come.

General Manager Sandy Alderson (if he is back) will need to acquire a third baseman, an outfielder and in my opinion a couple of starters.  An outfielder now becomes a necessity because of the uncertainty of once star in the making Conforto.  A third baseman is obvious because there is no one in the organization currently capable of playing the position.  I guess Asdrubal Cabrera could fit the bill but he’ll be a year older and has had issues staying on the field with a bad knee.  Wilmer Flores occasionally can fill in at third perhaps but on an everyday basis, now way.  The Mets must acquire a starting pitcher or two.  It has really become obvious that Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler may never live up to their potential.  Injuries may have taken their toll on any future the two hinted at a few years ago.  Hopefully the Mets can count on Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard to anchor the staff.  Perhaps Steven Matz will finally get his stuff together now that his ulnar nerve has been moved the way deGrom’s was at the end of last year.  But Matz is no sure thing having struggled for most of his young career.

By trading away Jay Bruce, Addison Reed, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, and Neil Walker, the Mets have a lot of cash coming off the books.  Hopefully the Mets are willing to put it back into the team otherwise 2018 is going to be another season of disappointment.