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The Fate of the 2017 New York Mets Starting Lineup

The following explains what happened to the players on this year’s Mets opening day starting lineup.  There is one month to go of this dreadful season.  This season, the Mets missed an opportunity to make the playoffs for a third straight season for the first time in their history.  Why did this happen?  There are a lot of reasons.  Here’s a look at the fate of the April 3 starting lineup against the young and improving Atlanta Braves.

1 – Jose Reyes (3B) led off on April 3.  He has played in 118 games and for the most part remained healthy with a trip to the DL recently.  He is still on the team and active but is not the player he was when he first came up with the Mets.  In fairness to Reyes, he was never expected to be an everyday player in 2017.  With David Wright being lost for the entire season, among other injured players on the team, Reyes was forced into starting more often than expected. So far in 118 games in 2017 Reyes has 9 homers and 40 RBI and leads the team with 16 stolen bases (ouch!).  He is a free agent after the season and it is unclear if he will soon play is last game for good with the Mets.

2 – Asdrubal Cabrera (SS) at short became a bit of a prima donna when he was told he may have to play second base or third.  After being asked that, he demanded to be traded.  Ironically he remains on the team, still playing, when so many others are gone or hurt.  Cabrera remains productive with 10 home runs and 41 RBI in 107 games.  He recently reported he hopes to be back next season.  The Mets hold a team option on Cabrera.

3 – Yoenis Cespedes (LF) (Injury) had a disappointing season not due to his production but his inability to stay on the field.  Now done for the season with his second hamstring injury, a point of contention has to be the Mets conditioning staff.   Why in the world do the Mets not have a universal message to their players regarding what are reasonable baseball conditioning exercises during the offseason?  How can it be that two star players (Noah Syndergaard) were allowed to press excessive weights that likely led to injures that kept them off the field for the majority of the season?  This is a question that needs answering and a solution must follow so these types of injuries are minimized in the future.  Cespedes played in just half a season, 81 games.  He had 17 homeruns and batted in 42, not bad considering the games played but certainly not what the Mets were hoping after giving Cespedes a 110 million dollar contract.

4 – Curtis Granderson (CF) (Traded) is now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, traded during the August waiver period.  Granderson had his typical year of starting off dreadfully cold but then heating up and enjoying his usual production.  In Grandy’s final 111 games with the Mets he hit 19 home runs with 52 RBI.

5 -Neil Walker (2B) (Traded) also traded during the wavier period, now roams the infield for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Walker missed time during the season due to injury and when he was playing he did not have nearly the numbers he had in his first season with the Mets. In 73 games, Walker hit 10 homers with 36 RBI.  The Mets could bring back Walker has a free agent however, they can save money and likely get the same production from in-house solutions, such as Wilmer Flores.

6 – Jay Bruce (RF) (Traded) was the most productive offensive player the Mets had in 2017. But because of the poor performance and injuries to so many, like Granderson and Walker, Bruce was sent packing to the Cleveland Indians during the waiver period.  In 103 games, Bruce hit 29 homeruns and batted in 75, the most by far of any hitter on the club.  The Mets have expressed interest to bringing back Bruce during the off season.  And now that Michael Conforto will likely require shoulder surgery and may miss part of the 2018 season, bringing back Bruce may be a smart move.  But the Mets better be ready to pony up.  There is a slim market this off season and Bruce will likely be able to choose the contract he wants.

7 – Lucas Duda (1B) (Traded) once again could not get through a season without injury.  Not that he missed a lot of time but he did suffer a hyperextended elbow on a play at first base that caused him to miss some time.  With the Mets ultimately going nowhere, he was traded before the July 31 deadline, sending him to Tampa where he is enjoying similar success that he did with the Mets.  In 75 games, Duda hit 17 home runs and batted in 37.  Duda was traded because he is a free agent, the Mets season was already toast, and they needed to make room for Dominic Smith.

8 -Rene Rivera (C ) (Claimed)  Rivera, primarily the backup catcher got a lot of work because Travis d’Arnaud just can’t stay off the disabled list and Rivera’s production was on par with d’Arnaud.  Rivera was eventually claimed off of waivers by the Chicago Cubs where he is enjoying a division title run. In 54 games, Rivera hit 8 home runs and batted in 23. Who knows, the Mets could always bring Rivera back for ’18 but likely the Mets will go with a combination of d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki who has shown much improved offensive skills since being called up.

9 – Noah Syndergaard (P) (Injury) Syndergaard was pitching great until he tore a lat muscle that has kept him out of action since the end of April.  Syndergaard explained that he wanted to build more muscle with the silly idea he could throw the ball even harder than before.  Most experts believe this extra muscle mass created an imbalance that led to this injury.  As with Cespedes’s injuries, this type of lifting exercises is detrimental to baseball activity.  Thor had a record of 1-2 with a 3.29 before going down.  He is expected to make a rehab start this weekend and it’s unclear if he will start at the major league level prior to the end of the season.

Five of the starting nine are gone from the organization. Of the five Jay Bruce might be the one to return but I believe it’s unlikely.  Cespedes and Syndergaard will be back.  Reyes won’t but’s it’s possible Cabrera will.  As a bonus, here are the rest of the players that appeared during that afternoon on opening day back in April.

Travis d’Arnaud (C ) d’Arnaud (pinch ran on opening day) just can’t get through a season without getting  hurt.  This season he stuck his hand out in front of the plate and got hit with a bat sending him to the DL for a while.  Early in the season he was not particular productive but has been better of late.  However his defense and handling of pitchers is suspect.  Catcher is a position the Mets may have to think about during the off season.  In 91 games, d’Arnaud has 10 dingers and 38 runs batted in.  He likely will get one more shot with the Mets in 2018 but if Plawecki continues to hit as he has, he could possibly become the club’s favorite to start.  He’s already better defensively that d’Arnaud but that bar is not too high.

Wilmer Flores (Inf) Flores (pinch hit on opening day) has remained healthy all season and has contributed.  However, his future is not the replacement for David Wright at third.  He just doesn’t have the quick hands or arm to be a consideration as an everyday third baseman.  However, with a weak market at second base this off season, Flores might be the option there.  His bat is much more consistent against righties and lefties and will likely be more productive if not more than Neil Walker.  In 107 games, Flores has 17 home runs and 48 RBI.

Hansel Robles (P), (relieved on opening day) was truly the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the Mets pitching staff.  There were times when Robles was just brilliant then other times where he was simply awful.  Too often he tried to throw the ball through the catcher and forgot about pitching.  There is no question to Robles’s talent however he needs to learn to be more consistent in the future.  Robles is 7-5 with a 4.26 ERA.

Fernando Salas (P) (DFA) (also relieved on opening day) was not good at all in 2017.  He struggled all season long and was finally designated for assignment to make room for other players.  He was 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA.

Robert Gsellman (P) (pitched the final inning of a 6-0 win on opening day) had a down year compared to his miraculous work of 2016 that helped a surging Mets team win the first wildcard spot.  This season he struggled to regain the form that looked so promising last season.  It didn’t help that he bad-mouthed General Manager Sandy Alderson either but apparently he has patched things up.  Gsellman is 5-6 with a 5.60 ERA.  Considering all the injuries to Mets pitchers this season, Gsellman cannot be ruled out for a spot in 2018.

Notes:  This weekend, once again, the Mets will be the center of attention.  This time it will be tomorrow in Houston when they play a day night doubleheader.  It will be the first games back in Houston since Hurricane Harvey devastated the area.   Of course the Mets were involved in the first game back in New York after the 9/11 attacks.  That was September 21, 2001 when Mike Piazza hit his most famous homerun.  Also the Mets were playing a Sunday night game in Philadelphia on May 1, 2011 when the crowd started chanting “USA, USA…” in response to Osama Bin Laden being killed by Seal Team 6.  The Mets seem to have an unusual knack for being in these situations.  Perhaps former Met Carlos Beltran will have a Piazza-like moment.

The Baseball Owners of New York

They gave us absolutely nothing this season.  At every turn it has been a colossal disappointment.  The rotation was going to be one dreams are made of.  Perhaps they would be the best since the 1971 Baltimore Orioles that sported four 20 game winners.  Of course no one expects a 20 game winner in this modern age of pitching specialty but you get the point.  Were told runs would come in bunches. They did at times but there were many power outages along the way too.  The biggest culprit was the pitching staff, no doubt about it.  In games when scoring three runs or less, the Mets are a pathetic 4-40. Most teams have a losing record when scoring three or less but a .91 winning percentage says a whole lot.

With the expectations for both New York teams back in the spring, what Mets fan couldn’t wait for these four subway series games?  This is when the Mets would complete the transition from a Yankees town to a Mets town.  Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, and Matz might just shut those Yankees out for four games in a row.  How naïve and stupid we can be.  Did you actually think the New York baseball gods would allow such a thing?

Do you realize the Yankees have not had a losing season since 1992?  Since then they never finished less than six games over .500 and that was just twice.  I’ve lost count of how many times the Yankees have been in the playoffs since.  Even during their alleged rebuild of the last few seasons while waiting for astronomical contracts to expire, the Yankees still continued to contend  playing winning baseball.  If retained memoires start around five years old, there are thirty year old Yankee fans that have never experienced a losing season.  That’s astonishing and frankly a marvel of sports business.

Then of course, there’s the Mets.

While we heard the propaganda of how the Mets farm system would be rebuilt and stars would be abounding, the Yankees quietly actually did it.  Call me cynical but I’m beginning to believe that no one will ever be able to turn the Mets into a perennial contender, maybe not even Theo Epstein, the greatest general manager of our time.  We had our once-per-decade playoff appearance in 2015 and a bonus wildcard game in 2016. What more can a Mets fan expect?

The New York Mets remain a New York sports punching bag, much like football’s Jets and basketball’s Knicks.  Always promise—rarely fulfilled.   I know I am being unfair to the likes of Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith.  The latter two look promising and Conforto is on his way to being a star much the way David Wright did in the mid-2000s.  I know the Mets signed an exceptional five tool talent in Yoenis Cespedes and still do have a potential starting staff that can compete with any team.  The problem is that outside of 2015, the Mets have been unable to put it all together.  Chronic injuries to key players continue to plague this team.  Why?  What is with the medical and conditioning staff of this club?

The Yankees have injuries too.  Clint Frazier, Matt Holiday, Greg Bird, and Starlin Castro are all on the DL but yet the Yanks continue to hang in there with call-ups. Who are the Mets calling up to help them out, Matt Reynolds?

So while the Yankees have won the first three games of the home and home subway series, we hang on to news that Matt Harvey threw three scoreless innings in Brooklyn and Jeurys Familia threw a scoreless inning in St. Lucie.  Pop the champagne, some positive news.  Let’s all celebrate.  By the way does anyone realize how bad the Mets farm teams are doing this year?

Except for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the only farm club that should make the playoffs, the other teams are flat out bad.  Not just bad, really bad.  The Yankee farm teams by contrast are all doing very well.  The AAA Las Vegas 51’s are in last place of their division in the Pacific Coast League, 15 games out.  The Scranton RailRiders, the Yanks’ AAA club has a 13 game lead in their division of the International League.  Binghamton sits in second place of the Eastern League comfortably in a playoff spot but they trail the Trenton Thunder (yes, the Yankees’ AA club) by 7.5 games.  The Florida State League – The Tampa Yankees in first, the St. Lucie Mets in last.  In the South Atlantic League—the Charleston RiverDogs (Yanks again) lead the division while the Columbia Fireflies (Mets) are tied for last.  The New York Penn League’s Staten Island Yankee are in first, 19.5 games ahead of the last place Brooklyn Cyclones.  Shall I go on?  The Pulaski Yankees of the Appalachian League, yep first place.  The Kingsport Mets, well not last place but next to last.  The Gulf Coast League Mets are also in last place.  Dreadful, simply dreadful.

Look, I know you can’t judge prospects simply based on win-loss records of minor league teams but consider that only Smith and Rosario were in the top 100 MLB prospects that came out earlier this season.  That list is littered with a slew of Yankee prospects.  The Mets have had higher draft picks but yet the Yankees have the better farm.  What does that say about Mets scouting?  Makes you think there is not much hope for the future and when the Mets’ front office always seems to be concerned about payroll you wonder how are they are ever going to get better.

It’s possible that next year, the rotation gets their act together, that the young players like Conforto, Rosario, and Smith continue to blossom and turn the Mets back into a playoff contender.  But after being so beat down by this organization that always promises big things and rarely delivers, it’s difficult to believe.  There is no more passionate a fan base than Mets fans.   They deserve so much more than is delivered by those in charge of this organization.

There is one more game for the Mets this season that will see a packed house.  That will be tonight when the Mets are likely once again embarrassed by the baseball owners of New York.

It’s Not How Much, It’s How Well

I rarely listen to sports talk radio.  I find it to be a vast wasteland of angry fans that are angry at the world because their team is not winning.  However, by accident my radio was tuned to WFAN sports talk radio the day after the Jay Bruce trade.  There was a Mets fan railing about how the Mets are a cheap organization and that they only traded Bruce to the Cleveland Indians because they were the only team willing to pay the entirety of his remaining salary.  If they had traded Bruce to the Yankees, the fan went on to say, the Mets would have received two prospects instead of one even though the Yankees wouldn’t pay all but some of Bruce’s salary.  The fan’s point being that the Mets are cheap and the deal was nothing more than a salary dump.

Well I think this Mets fan’s sentiment is not unique.  And he’s right, the deal was a salary dump.  Keith Hernandez said as much during last night’s telecast.  Yes, the Mets have a reputation of being a cheap ball club.  However, it’s hard to defend that stance when you delve into the facts.  I know we live in a world where facts are unpopular however, I still go by them.

The Mets’ team salary this year was 115 million on opening day.  That ranked as 12th in the majors.  It’s quite a bit more than the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, and the Cleveland Indians—all teams certain to be in the playoffs.  In addition there are eight other teams with lower salaries that have a better record than the Mets.  Therefore I conclude that making the argument that the Mets are cheap is not a valid one.

Furthermore, the Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox are the top three spending teams in baseball and all three of them will make the playoffs, almost a guarantee.  This evidence supports’ the fan’s conclusion that spending more means winning more.  But consider that the Giants, Blue Jays, Rangers, Tigers, Orioles, and Angels all spent more than the Mets and they are having just dreadful seasons.  The point of this is that it is not how much money a team spends but it’s how well the money is spent.

I think a better argument could be made that the Mets did not spend as well as they could have during last off season.  The post mortem of this season will be that the highly talented pitching staff of the ages exploded on the launch pad.  The Mets are almost in danger of having a worse team ERA than the 1962 Mets.  That takes some doing.  I’m not saying that the Mets should have spent money to retain Bartolo Colon but perhaps a veteran starter or two would have been warranted especially considering so many injuries the Mets starters were recovering from.   But once again to defend the Mets, they thought they had good insurance in Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.  The best laid plans…

Also let’s not forget the 110 million dollar contract the Mets doled out to Yoenis Cespedes.  Was that being cheap?  Perhaps if Cespedes worked harder to be in baseball playing shape as opposed to being the next Charles Atlas, he wouldn’t have had such a disappointing injury plagued season.  Neil Walker was a disaster and Travis d’Arnaud, although hitting better lately, was again a big disappointment when it could have counted.  Suffice to say, a lot went wrong during this 2017 season, a year the Mets were supposed to go to the playoffs for a third straight season.  Instead Mets fans had to watch the team across the river that was supposed to be in a rebuilding year do everything right.  Every call-up was great, they could do no wrong.   So in regard to the Bruce trade, did you honestly want to see him belting home runs over that high school right field fence in the Bronx, especially next week against the Mets?  How much of a beating are you willing to take?

I get the fan’s frustration.  Given the media mecca of New York, the available revenue streams, there really is no reason that Mets fans must suffer the way other small market teams do like the Cincinnati Reds.  The fact that the Yankees have not had a losing record since 1992 while the Mets have had only a handful of winning seasons during that same time is simply unacceptable.  I do not blame any Mets fan for complaining about how the team is run.  Their record speaks for itself.  The Mets organization is lacking in many respects.  But they do spend enough money.  They just need to figure out how to spend it better, how to get maximum value in their investment.  And if the money they save not having to pay Jay Bruce for the last month and a half of the season helps net them a good piece for 2018, then it was a deal worth making.  More importantly I won’t have to watch Bruce embarrass the Mets next week more than they already have embarrassed themselves in 2017.

Dodgers 86 the Mets

The title of my post is very clever don’t you think?  You see to “86” something means to get rid of or throw something out.  You can google it and see the various claims to its origin.  And of course I’m making a reference to the ‘86 Mets because they steamrolled over everyone in 1986 like the Dodgers are doing this season.  However, the Dodgers are on pace to blow past the Mets 108 wins of 1986 and the Mariners’ all-time record of 116 wins of 2001.

The Mets were no match for the Dodgers the past weekend and would have been better off having forfeited the entire series and take a nice rest over the weekend.   The thought that crossed my mind while the Mets were being bludgeoned was why Sandy Alderson ever let Justin Turner get away.  But the reality of the Mets season squarely falls on the pitching.  What in the world will Sandy do over the winter to correct this mess?  Can he stay pat and just hope the pitching finally gets healthy.  I think not.

The Mets will hopefully have learned a lesson and go out and get some serviceable veteran pitchers to complement the young Mets staff, at least the ones that remain healthy.  Alderson has already started to re-fortify the bullpen by bringing in pitchers from the Lucas Duda and Addison Reed trades.  Plus he got AJ Ramos from the Marlins for prospects.  So Sandy has already begun to build the bullpen for 2018.

The Mets will need to figure out who plays second, third and catches.  Can the Mets honestly count on Travis d’Arnaud anymore?  It was one thing to live with his defense if was hitting to the potential that had been placed on him.  But the reality is he’s not much of an offensive threat either.  Face it, the Mets need a catcher.  Forget David Wright.  Even if he were to come back, what can the Mets expect from a third baseman that has severe back and neck issues at the age of 35 years old?  Even a healthy 35 year old third baseman is suspect.  It’s time the Mets figure out who’s going to play third on a daily bases.  And no, it can’t be Jose Reyes or Asdrubal Cabrera.

Second base, any ideas?  Dilson Herrera, the prospect to inherit the position was traded last season for Jay Bruce.  Herrera has had shoulder issues this season and has not played for the Reds’ AAA club since July so he may have not been the answer anyway.  Neil Walker looks as if he’s lost a lot since his back surgery a year ago.  He will likely not be back next season.  Could Wilmer Flores play second on a daily basis?  Maybe but I suspect the Mets will be looking at options outside the organization.

And who will manage this team.  Will the Mets really bring back Terry Collins?  I think a new voice is needed in that clubhouse.  Not sure who that voice might belong to but hopefully it’s someone new.

The sooner this disastrous season is over the better.  This has to be one of the most disappointing baseball seasons in Mets history.  With 52 games left it’s time to start thinking about next year.

Moves Begin

The Mets traded Lucas Duda, clearing room for future first baseman Dominic Smith but he’s not coming up just yet.  He will be up in the next several weeks.  So will Amed Rosario, the highly touted future Mets’ shortstop.  Right, because what’s the rush?

I think the Mets are just way too conservative.  If the Mets really believe this is a lost year, and it is, then why not bring them up now?  What is a couple more weeks in Las Vegas going to do for these two players?  Vegas is about a million games under .500 and going nowhere.  I really don’t understand this lack of urgency, even if only symbolic.  At least give Mets fans something to be excited about.  Or are we still overly concerned with Asdrubal Cabrera’s feelings?

I liked Duda but he was never going to evolve more for the Mets than he already had.  He was a mediocre fielder and a very streaky hitter.  When he got hot, he was a marvel to watch but when he went cold, you wondered what ever happened to Ike Davis.  Of course in the American League and mostly hitting as a DH, don’t be surprised if his power numbers rocket.  That could be especially true playing home games in Tampa Bay with no pressure matching anything like playing in New York.  Of course his stay in TB will likely be temporary since Lucas will be a free agent after this season.

Meanwhile the Mets prod along never being able to serious threaten to get to the .500 mark.  It’s ho-hum as they win a couple then drop a couple.  With the trade deadline just a few days away it’s likely the Mets will move Cabrera, Addison Reed, and perhaps Curtis Granderson.  What they will get back won’t be much but perhaps it will help bolster a farm system clearly needing some new talent.  Most of the Mets farm clubs are not having great seasons but one should never judge a farm by win loss records.  However I do judge them by top 100 players and only the soon to be promoted Smith and Rosario make the list.  Meanwhile the Yankees, Braves, Nationals and other clubs seem to have many.  I thought Sandy Alderson was about a strong system.  What happened?

On the bright side, and if you can judge talent by wins and loss, the Mets two minor league clubs in the Dominican Summer League are doing exceptionally well.  The DSL Mets 1 and DSL Mets 2 clubs have identical records of 31-15. Mets 1 is in second place in their respective division and Mets 2 lead their division.  Again, I’m not saying that means anything but perhaps the Mets are doing well in the international draft.

Of course players in the DSL do not help us today as we already head into the last two months of the baseball season.  But maybe the promotion of Smith and Rosario will.  Let me know when they come up.  I’m going to take a nap.

How Did We Get Here Again?

There are many categories to look at when discussing a team’s success during the course of a baseball season.  One that I have been harping on since April has been low scoring games or specifically when scoring 3 runs or less.  After last night’s 3-0 loss to St. Louis, the Mets record at home has dropped to 21-27.  Their record in July is now 4-8.  Add to that 3 under .500 at night.  On and on, the Mets splits look pretty bad but the one stat that stands out the most this season is the win-loss record when the offense scores three runs or less.  For the Mets it is now 3-30, a .091 winning percentage.  That’s simply terrible.

That inability might suggest the Mets’ overall record should be far worse than the current 41-50 they sit at after 91 games.  The fact it is not worse is a testament to the Mets’ offense except for last night when they were shutout for the fourth time this year.  The Mets score four or more runs a lot of nights but no one can expect any offense to not be shut down by good pitching or a slump once in a while.  That’s where the Mets’ “good” pitching was supposed to make a difference.  The Mets had such a corral of stud pitchers that they were going to win those low scoring games to propel them into the post season.  So far the pitching is propelling the Mets into the off season.  And when will the Mets bring up anybody else but Rafael Montero to start a game?  Why must we watch this disaster every five games?

Consider where the Mets might be if in those 33 games when scoring three runs or less, they had some pitching.  Ok, any team can get shut out so obviously if a team doesn’t score, they’re not going to win.  Let’s concede the four shutouts, leaving the Mets at 3-27 (.100) when at least scoring 1 to 3 runs.  Suppose in those 30 games, the Mets had won half of them (15-15).  That would mean today instead of 41-50, the Mets would be 56-35. Assuming the Nationals would have their current record, the Mets would be trailing them by one game.  But five of those losses when scoring 3 runs or less were against the Nationals so if the Mets won just two of those games, they would be leading the division.

That’s the difference this season.  The pitching completely collapsed and is the number one reason why the Mets are where they are and why they will end the season with another losing record.  But why has the pitching been so bad?  Of course the number one reason is injuries yet again.

Noah Syndergaard who started out looking like the sure ace of the staff tore his right lat muscle and was placed on the disabled list on May 1. He has now just started throwing off of flat ground.  Matt Harvey came back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery that removed a rib from the pitchers right side.  While his velocity was good, he could never get control of his command and struggled in most of his starts.  Then Harvey went on the DL with a scapular injury and he too has just starting playing catch.  Steven Matz missed most of the first half of the season with elbow soreness and has been up and down since finally getting his season going.  The guy who has been healthy all season is Zach Wheeler but he missed the previous two seasons from Tommy John recovery and he continues to struggle each outing.  He throws way too many pitches having difficulty getting into the sixth inning.  Robert Gsellman who dazzled at the end of last season was virtually ineffective all season and has since been replaced by Seth Lugo who also missed most of the early schedule.  Lugo is pitching with a partially torn UCL and Gsellman is on the DL with a pulled hamstring.  That’s just the starting staff.

The bullpen has also been a disaster.  All Star closer Jeurys Familia missed thirty games because of domestic violence then he was placed on the DL and had surgery for an aneurysm in his shoulder.  The rest of the pen is very unpredictable and has had huge difficulty holding slim leads.   The true bright spot of the Mets pitching staff has been Jacob deGrom but even he struggled earlier in the season.

The Mets defense is to blame too.  The Mets give the opposition too many extra outs and that also works against the pitching staff.  All the Mets seem able to do is to hit homeruns.  But no team can simply homer their way to the post season.

Certainly the players take the brunt of the blame but the front office deserves some ire as well. They could have done more in the off season to guard against so many pitchers that were coming off injures and/or surgery.  The front office should have better communication with trainers and their players to make sure that the off season work they are doing doesn’t hurt their baseball playing abilities.  Why in the world was Syndergaard allowed to add so much extra muscle that likely contributed to his injury.

Once again, the perception around the Mets is one of dysfunction.   We were supposed to be enjoying the fruits of the rebuilding now but instead we are likely headed to a selloff and another rebuild or at least a partial one.  Meanwhile the Atlanta Braves and the crosstown rival Yankees appear to be rebuilding quickly and will soon steal the thunder away from the Mets, one team within the division and the other in the same market.  More importantly the Nationals are miles ahead of the Mets in every category and it’s going to take some monumental work for the Mets to get back to post season contention.

And what of the Mets farm system?  Their AAA team in Las Vegas is 24 games under .500.  While double A Binghamton is 12 games over .500, they trail the Yankees double A club by 10 games.  St. Lucie is 17 games below .500 and Brooklyn, the short season A club is 8-20 while the Staten Island Yankees are 20-8. Do the Mets have some scouting challenges or what?  Kingsport and the Gulf Coast Mets rookie teams are also playing horribly wallowing far under .500 at the bottom of their respective divisions.  The Columbia club of the South Atlantic League is having a poor second half as well sitting in last place.   While no one should ever get crazy over minor league records the Mets’ farm teams are reflecting an overall talent pool that is not too good.  So unless there are diamonds in the rough or the Mets plan to spend some money over the off season (unlikely), we may well have already had our decade moment in 2015.

The Mets, a team in the primary baseball market of New York City can never sustain success and they continue to confound its fan base generation after generation.  Really how much can we take?

Murphy’s Law

Why did so many of us Mets fans not be that concerned that the Mets did not retain Daniel Murphy after the 2015 season?

I admit to being one of those fans.  I convinced myself at the end of the 2015 World Series that Murphy’s ridiculous wild ride through the playoffs could not be sustained into the future.  How wrong I was but my decision was nowhere near as important as Sandy Alderson’s.  In hindsight am I blaming Sandy?  Why of course I am, I have to blame someone.

While with the Mets, Murphy was known as kind of a boneheaded player who could flat out hit.  His play at second base was less than adequate and on a team that so much wanted good infield defense to support its fine young pitching, it was clear Murphy would not be retained after his contract expired.  His level of offensive play, while always good, got much better in 2015, especially when the playoffs began.  Suffice it to say, without Daniel Murphy, the Mets would not have gone as deep into the 2015 post season without him.

In the division series against Los Angeles, Murph hit 3 homeruns and batted in 5 run.  In the deciding game, Murphy doubled in the first run of the game against Zach Greinke giving the Mets the early 1-0 lead.  With the Mets trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning, Murphy singled.  With one out, and Lucas Duda up, Murphy stole second on a pitch that ended up to be ball four to Duda.  Because the Dodgers employed the shift against Duda, no one was defending third base.  Murphy saw that and as he nonchalantly went into second, he turned on the afterburners and took third base.  It was an absolutely brilliant move from a player not really known for his head being in the game once he stepped out of the batter’s box.  Travis d’Arnaud’s sacrifice fly scored Murph with the tying run.  Then in the sixth, it was Daniel Murphy front and center again, launching a high drive into the right field stands off of Greinke giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.  All three runs scored were the result of something that their second baseman did.  The Mets won the series in five games against the Dodgers thanks to Murphy.

He did it again in the league championship series, facing a very good Chicago Cubs ball club.  Murphy homered in all four games, the same number of games it took the Mets to sweep the Cubs.   All in all, Murphy drove in six runs and had a double to go along with his four dingers, nine hits total and ended up winning the NLCS MVP award.  The New York Mets reached their first World Series in sixteen years, fifth overall because of Murph.

After a stellar division and league series, it was hard to think that Murphy would not be back.  But the Mets faltered in the World Series only managing to win one game against the American League champion Kansas City Royals.  Murphy only mustered three hits, none of them for extra bases and he drove in no runs.  The magic Murphy rode through the playoffs disappeared in the fall classic.  It became a little easier to accept that Daniel’s performance was a fluke and the Mets hierarchy should not be fooled into giving him a long term contract with him being such a liability in the field.

The Mets ultimately offered Murph the qualifying offer meaning if he accepted, he would return to the club for one year then become a free agent again at the end of 2016. Of course he refused, realizing his value would be more with another team.  New Nationals manager Dusty Baker may have had some input to Washington’s brain trust.  Seeing the possibility of Murphy seeking revenge on his old team nineteen times a season might work wonders for the Nats.  The gamble paid off.  Murphy signed a three year deal with Washington and his improved hitting style he gained from Mets batting coach Kevin Long continued.  As the Mets faltered in 2016, Murphy with very consistent hitting around him won another division title, this time wearing red.  Although the Mets made the wildcard, the Nats played in the division series but lost to the Dodgers.  Murphy had as many hits (7) in the 2016 division series as he had in the ’15 series but with no homeruns.  He did drive in six however, and was not the reason that Washington failed to advance.

So in the last laugh category, it appears Murphy is the winner.  This season, Murphy’s Nats are running away with the division as the Mets flounder seven games under .500.  There has not been one game played yet between Washington and the Mets that Murphy has not gotten a hit against his former team.  The Mets may want to put up a sign the next time they play the Nationals that says “No Bully Zone” because that’s what the Nats do to them every time they meet.  They are to the Mets what the 1990’s Atlanta Braves were, a team the Mets just can’t beat and part of that is because they let a consummate hitter of their own go play for a division foe.  It was a gamble that many agreed with but it has burned the Mets for two straight seasons now.

Meanwhile back in Flushing, the Mets have had Neil Walker play second base.  He is better than Murphy with the glove and he provided the Mets with very good offence in 2016 but not so much this season.  Unfortunately both seasons were marred by injury.  Last year’s season ending back surgery may be the reason why Walker has not been as good offensively.  Others who have played second include Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Ty Kelly, Eric Campbell, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Gavin Cecchini, and now reluctantly Asdrubal Cabrera while Walker is on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring.  There are some good hitters in that group but none of them including Walker seems to provide that feeling of a sure hit as Murphy does.  In 78 games this season, Murphy is hitting a Major League leading .341 with 14 homeruns and 60 RBI.  That’s the third highest RBI total on the Nats.  The closet player the Mets have to those numbers lies with Jay Bruce with 21 homers and 57 runs batted in.  But realize that Bruce is likely gone before the trade deadline unless the Mets get serious about this season very soon.

So it’s easy to criticize after the fact.  That’s what we fans do it all the time.  I’m not really blaming Alderson for not offering a similar contract but had he done so, Murph would have taken it because he never really wanted to leave.  It just infuriates me that the Mets are where they are and the Nats are once again dominating the division.  This was supposed to have been our year, the Mets year.  With their pitching staff for the ages and resigning Yoenis Cespedes to a long term deal, this was supposed to be another exciting pennant drive between the Mets and the Nats.  Instead, it seems as if the Mets are where the baseball gods always want them to be: looking up at .500, another season, another waste of our time.

It confounds me that a team from New York with the media and money available to them, consistently fail to sustain success.  I’m not a basketball fan and I often feel bad for my friends who are Knicks fans and the misery they go through.  Then it dawned on me that they must feel the same empathy for me.