Archive for the 'Yoenis Cespedes' Category

Marathon Men

Yesterday I wrote about Hansel Robles and his penchant for inconsistency.  After pitching three days in a row, Terry Collins was not going to use Robles last night by hook or crook.  Shows you what can happen in baseball and why it’s like no other professional sport in the world.  There’s no clock. A game could be played in as little as two hours or theoretically go on forever.  Last night was a close example of the latter as the game stretched to close to 1:00AM and sixteen innings.

There were many heroes.  After falling behind quickly by the score of 4-0 after a first inning grand slam from the bat of Marcell Ozuna, the Mets bounced back in the top of the second.  After loading the bases, Travis d’Arnaud tripled down the right field line clearing the sacks making it a one run game.  So hero number one is d’Arnaud who has got his bat going now.  Curtis Granderson singled in d’Arnaud from third tying the game at 4.  The Mets offense answered the call erasing a four run deficit giving beleaguered Mets starter Robert Gsellman another shot.

Gsellman did settle down.  And while he did, Yoenis Cespedes and Wilmer Flores hit back to back jacks then Cespedes hit another bomb two innings later to give the Mets 1 7-4 lead.  But Gsellman fell apart and gave up four runs and the lead in the fifth, blowing his shot at his first win of the season.  So far we have a hero in Cespedes, d’Arnaud, and Flores but not Gsellman.  In this story, Gsellman was the antagonist.

Michael Conforto, who earlier in the day was not sent to AAA Las Vegas to make room for Juan Lagares, got into the act in the eighth inning and doubled to right center to score d’Arnaud with the tying run.  With score tied 8-8, it became the battle of the bullpens.  After Josh Edgin let in two inherited runners closing the books on Gsellman, he managed to get the final outs of the fifth inning.  From that point forward the bullpen was magnificent.  Rafael Montero (1.1 innings), Jerry Blevins (.2 innings), Fernando Salas (2 innings), Addison Reed (2 innings), and then Josh Smoker (3 innings) kept the score tied through the fourteenth inning.

So what was Terry to do? The only pitchers he had left were his starters and Robles.  Collins was forced to go against his wishes and bring in Robles who had to be tired from his previous outings.  Right off the bat you had to feel jittery as Robles gave up a single to the leadoff hitter Miguel Rojas.  But after Rojas was sacrificed to second, Robles got Dee Gorden to fly out and then struck out A. J. Ellis. Very impressive!

Then finally in the top of the sixteenth, Travis d’Arnaud ended the scoring drought by both teams by crushing a lead off fast ball to the moon (or was it deep left field).  It was Robles’ game now to win or lose.  Collins had no one left and was not willing to bring in a starter.  (Paul Sewald had been sent down earlier in the day to make room for Lagares.)

Robles walked Christian Yelich to start the sixteenth.  A pain in the pit of the stomach began.  But Robles got the very frightening Giancarlo Stanton on a well hit line drive to right before striking out the struggling Justin Bour.  That brought up Met killer Marcell Ozuna.  On Robles’ first pitch, Ozuna cracked it to deep center where Lagares corralled it on the warning track to end the marathon.  Had Ozuna hit that ball to left or right, there would have been no happy recap.

SNY votes Travis d’Arnaud the hero and why not?  He had four hits including a bases loaded triple and the game winning home run.  He also scored the tying run way back in the 8th inning.  So yes it’s hard to argue who the hero was.  But for me, I’d give it to Robles.  He’s proven that he can get big outs and is not afraid to try.  Great for him.  Great win.  Great night for the Mets!

Is Yoenis Cespedes the Mets’ new Mike Piazza?

He came to the Mets from the Detroit Tigers at the end of July 2015 for highly touted pitching prospect Michael Fulmer.  Because of that deal made at the trading deadline by Mets GM Sandy Alderson, the Mets went all the way to the World Series in 2015.  Last year, the Mets made the post season as one of the wildcards.  It was only the second time in Mets’ history that the club made the post season two consecutive years in a row.  The first time was in 1999-2000, the latter season included a World Series appearance.  During that time, the Mets star player was Mike Piazza, also acquired in a trade.  Piazza helped to lead the Mets to the post season those two seasons.  He hit the most home runs as a catcher in baseball history, was enshrined in the Mets Hall of Fame, and last year the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Fast forward to today where the Mets thunder in the lineup is Cespedes.   In many ways he has been even better than Piazza.  That’s a pretty tough thing to say when I consider Piazza only second to the great Tom Seaver in terms of most historic Mets player ever.  But unlike the Mets former all-star catcher, Cespedes came to New York and thrived from the outset, never really experiencing the “pressure of New York” thing that so many players have.  That’s not to say Cespedes has not struggled at times.  Toward the end of the 2015 season, Cespedes appeared lost at the plate. It happens with players like him, he’s streaking no question about it.  But for the most part, the Mets are a far better team with him in the lineup then when not.  That’s the earmark of a great hitter. It’s not just what he does alone but what he does for the rest of the lineup.  Both Piazza and Cespedes share that trait.

Like Piazza, Cespedes was destined for the Mets.  We heard how he would never resign in New York, twice in fact.  The same thing was thought about Piazza until he signed a record seven year deal at the end of the ’98 season to stay in Flushing.  Cespedes rejected a more lucrative contract with Washington after the championship season of ’15 to sign a one year deal with the Mets that included an opt-out clause. He’ll never return to the Mets the pundits said.  But after opting out as predicted, once again Cespedes did sign, this time for four years and 110 million dollars.

Then the thought morphed into will Cespedes perform now that he signed his big contract.  All he did was to work out all winter and dedicate himself to the game and the Mets.  There were no sports cars or horses this spring training, just baseball plain and simple.  It was very apparent that Cespedes is out to prove that he is the player worth every dollar of his new contract.  Cespedes thoroughly enjoys playing in New York, specifically in Queens where the fans have embraced him much the way they did when Piazza came to the Mets.  And like Piazza, Cespedes gives the Mets credibility and a whole lot of power.

Last night in Philadelphia, Cespedes hit three home runs.  It’s the second time in his short term with the Mets that he has pulled off that feat.  Yes, Cespedes has struggled a bit in the early going but last night shows what this guy can do.  He’s an awesome baseball player and unlike Piazza, Cespedes is a tremendous defender with a rocket for an arm.

In 356 games with the Mets so far, Cespedes has hit 87 homeruns, 241 RBI, 83 doubles, 11 triples, and a total of 392 hits with a slugging percentage of around .590.  Those are very comparable stats to Pizza’s when considering Mike’s first 356 games with the Mets.   Time will tell if Cespedes will become this generation’s Mike Piazza.  So far he has been everything you want in a superstar player.  Add to the fact the man’s history of growing up and defecting from Cuba and you have a great story, one of the many great stories of this franchise’s history.

Notes: The Mets have a very nice problem and that is when do they play Michael Conforto?  This kid needs to play and can contribute at the Major League level.  There’s no way Cespedes and Jay Bruce are going to sit right now.  I would like to see Conforto get a shot in center a few games in a row.  I know it’s tough to sit Curtis Granderson but either play Conforto or send him to Las Vegas where he has nothing to prove but so he can be in the lineup every day.

Mets Make Good Deal… for Now

Now that the Mets have indeed signed Yoenis Cespedes to what is effectively a one year deal, what will Mets fans rail about next?

The Mets have signed Cespedes to a three year deal but he can opt out after one. He would likely do that if he has a very good season. It will give him a chance for the mega deal he craves in a much slimmer outfield market next off season.

Prior to Friday, I saw comments on Metsblog.com (which is a horribly redesigned site by the way) blasting Sandy Alderson for not just flat out signing Cespedes. In fact, some of the comments should have banned certain users for life. It appears that some have forgotten some very successful recent history.

Alderson’s plan put the Mets into the World Series last year. Thankfully he doesn’t react to a certain faction of Mets fans who so obviously need a life. Alderson’s strategy for getting back Cespedes paid off. And make no mistake that had Cespedes signed with Washington who guaranteed more money and years, Alderson would have simply crossed his name off the whiteboard and moved on to the next plan. The Mets GM is a man with a vision and he is not going to cave to impetuous fan reaction. I, as well as the vast majority of Mets fans, am thankful for that.

From day one of Sandy’s hiring, his goal was to rebuild the farm system and to create flexibility with payroll. Contrary to popular belief by the many financial geniuses among the Mets faithful, a baseball team regardless of its location simply can’t print its own money. So while the squeaky wheels in the fan base complained that the owners are cheap, the Mets this off season went out and acquired second baseman Neil Walker, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, outfielder Alejandro De Aza, pitchers Bartolo Colon, Jerry Blevins, and just last week, Antonio Bastardo. Now they have acquired Cespedes and will give him 27.5 million for the one year and if he elects to stay the length of the contract, the Mets will pony up an additional 47.5 million. Plus the Mets have settled with all of their arbitration eligible players* for the 2016 season and the word is they are still looking for additional bullpen help.

The Mets payroll will be around 140 million or more on opening day. For now, the noisy fans need to stop screaming about the cheap Wilpons and the bottom line Alderson. Regardless of the fan’s and media’s perception, here is what I think has been going on all along. Other than signing the checks, the Wilpons had little to do with the amount of payroll since they hired Sandy. It has always been Alderson’s plan to not spend for the sake of spending. Alderson is the one who wanted to get the bloated contracts off the books. Alderson is the one who saw the need to rebuild the farm system and scouting department. He’s the one who knew the Mets had to trade some popular players (Beltran and Dickey) to bring in some of the pieces. And he’s the one that knew it would take five years to realize that goal. If anyone had bothered to stop spewing their X-Files-esque conspiracies and listen, they would have understood this all along. But it still doesn’t stop the criticism leveled at this team even after they have signed Cespedes.

Here’s a quote from Bob Klapsich of the Bergen Record after the Cespedes signing– “Let’s face it, with a payroll approaching $140 million, the Wilpons are just about off the hook” and “For once, ownership got it right. If they were indeed responding to fan pressure, then maybe the dark age is officially over”.  So instead of saying I (Klapisch) was wrong, that this was the plan all along, he attempts to save face by insinuating that the Wilpons finally listened to the fans. No Bob, the Wilpons listened to their General Manager and have been doing so since giving the keys of the baseball operation to him. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Ken Davidoff had this to say. “After this move, you probably won’t hear many more calls (for now) from the Mets fans to boycott Citi Field”. Well he’s right but the “for now” remark concerns me. In fact, WFAN radio talk show host Evan Roberts stated that by making this move, the Mets put off fan outrage for another six months for when presumably Cespedes opts out. So in other words, by signing Cespedes, the Mets will make matters worse if he leaves. Are you f—ing kidding me? How do the Mets win (off the field) with this kind of logic?

David Lennon, who I like, offered this remark – “The Mets are putting their money where their mouth is… There has been plenty of howling over their business plan in recent years, and deservedly so”. No, it would have been deservedly so had the Mets stated they would spend and sign players at all costs. They never claimed that. The Mets never implied under Alderson they were going to run their team like the 1980s Yankees.

Richard Justice of MLB.com got it right by saying “These last two seasons have been an endorsement of Alderson’s blueprint. … Now that the Mets have just played in their first World Series in 15 seasons and still have Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz leading baseball’s best rotation, they’ve made it a really good time to be a Mets fan. And it got even better on Friday” Richard is 100 percent correct. Now I will add the following:

It required a lot of patience for the Mets to get to where they are today. By not spending willy-nilly to satisfy incoherent fans or blustery members of the media, they were able to retool the franchise and put themselves in the position to bring in the needed pieces to win and to sustain success moving forward.  With the young players developed and acquired by Alderson and his front office, the guidance imparted by manager Terry Collins and his coach’s, the Mets have created an atmosphere where players want to come to New York now. They play in a great ballpark in a great city and are run by people that know what the hell they are doing. For a rare time, we saw a player in Cespedes leave money on the table to play where he truly wanted to play. That’s loyalty and that speaks volumes to Sandy for building it, Terry for running it, and the Wilpons for financing it. Personally, I thank them all.

*Update Jan 30

My mistake. The Mets just settled with Neil Walker but Jeurys Familia is still yet to sign.