In a Twilight Zone (or Bizzarro World if you’re more of a superman fan) kind of way, I come to you today in praise of the beleaguered Skipper of this sinking ship. I’m not going to get into his daily pitching burnout strategy nor his penchant for rewarding players who have a big day with a seat on the bench to rest on their laurels to celebrate their accomplishments. No, as bad as it’s been more of the blame has to go to both the players themselves and the front office for not planning properly and taking proper corrective measures in a timely manner.
No one is his right mind could possibly think that David Wright was going to play 150+ games given the state of his health. While I’m not inside the mind of Sandy Alderson (right or not), I’m guessing the thinking was that Wilmer Flores would provide the 3B backup function should Wright need occasional or long term rest. The problem with that approach is it removed the one potentially viable bat from the bench in making Flores a starter. He had no one else ready who could either hit .250 or drive the ball over the wall except fellow bench piece (and outfielder) Juan Lagares.
When Duda got hurt (with Wright and Travis d’Arnaud both already ailing), there was a need to replace 75 or more home runs and about 250 RBIs. Did he go out and find someone capable of filling that void? No, he went the Rick Ankiel route and scrap picked someone who once was good but who even in his heyday was never a middle-of-the-order threat. Granted, James Loney has been far better in his batting average by a hundred points, but actually is driving in runs at a lower rate than the now-out-of-baseball Rick Ankiel. It was a cheap and easy solution for Alderson that took no brains nor courage nor risk. Consequently the results, while positive, are not addressing the gap left by injuries.
During the off-season it was revealed that Mr. Plawecki was having serious issues with his sinuses. He described the dizziness as akin to feeling drunk. The surgery was apparently successful, but on whose head lays the blame for continuing to trot him out there all season long when his physical malady was taking such a toll on him? It’s easy to blame the often clueless manager, but was Sandy Alderson kept in the dark about this condition? If so, whoever failed to tell him should be fired on the spot. If he did know and didn’t address the issue, that’s another black mark on the so-called smartest guy in the room. Of course, with the way Plawecki performed this year you have to wonder if the sinus thing was the only issue. Sandy’s solution, of course, was to ink the highly sought-after .209 career hitting wonder, Rene Rivera, who flamed out of such powerhouse teams as the Mariners, Rays, Padres and Twins. True to form, he’s hitting .182 and fanning in over 1/3 of his ABs. I have called him the Hispanic Anthony Recker.
During last year’s offensive malaise the injuries to Michael Cuddyer had the Mets uncharacteristically reach down to the AA level to bring up Michael Conforto, skipping AAA altogether. Part of that decision was to make Sandy’s heretofore bad drafts have at least one player perform as expected. Part of it once again had to do with 40-man roster considerations. The good news is that Conforto was not initially overwhelmed by the highest level of competition and despite the platoon happy manager benching him against most lefties (since the only way to learn to hit them is to watch them, not actually swing the bat) he looked like a major piece of the offensive puzzle for 2016. Unfortunately after a decent April everything came apart for him during his sophomore slump yet Sandy Alderson felt it was best to keep trotting him out there while deflating his ego, retarding his development and contributing to the losing for more two full months until he was mercifully sent packing to get his mojo back.
The cries of “Curtis Bay” were mostly vanquished in 2015 when the former Yankee slugger put up a good season in the leadoff spot with 26 HRs, 70 RBIs, 11 SBs, a slightly better than average year .259 AVG and despite 151 Ks, he still managed to post a respectable .364 OBP. There were many cries of “Sell high!” with regard to the Grandyman given the two very expensive years on his contract and his advancing age. Apparently Sandy didn’t put batteries in his hearing aid and that advice was not heeded. This year the HRs are there, but the RBIs are way down, the strikeouts continue high, the batting average is down and the OBP is way down. Still, he’s going to get paid his remaining $31 million for this year and next combined. Now the cherry on top is he’s hurt, too. In characteristic Alderson fashion, the Mets opt to play shorthanded with guys who have never logged a professional inning of outfield duty (Matt Reynolds) being thrust into that role at the big league level. Does this seem like the way a team that went to the World Series should operate?
No, I’m not talking about the surprisingly funny Keanu Reeves movie about strike busting scabs in the NFL, I’m talking about the collection of misfit toys Sandy Alderson thinks will propel the team over not only the Washington Nationals, but also now the Florida Marlins:
- Ty Kelly
- Matt Reynolds (some encouraging signs)
- Eric Campbell
- Kelly Johnson (adequate on the bench, should never start)
- Brandon Nimmo (jury still out on him)
- Rene Rivera
- Seth Lugo
Now baseball economics factor into every decision. There are the number of player options to consider, service time clocks through which teams can artificially delay arbitration and free agency by holding top prospects back at the beginning of the year, and other considerations.
Still, it has to be frustrating to guys having minor league All-Star level seasons like Gavin Cecchini, Dilson Herrera, Travis Taijeron, TJ Rivera and others who are bypassed for the likes of Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly and even Matt Reynolds who was only hitting .230 in the PCL when he was promoted. Shouldn’t decisions also be made about putting the best team possible on the field?
It’s Saturday and this afternoon teams are free to begin making offers on the crown jewel of free agency, Yulieski Gourriel. He’s an above average third baseman who hits for high average and power. It takes no players to acquire him and he doesn’t even count against the team’s international bonus pool because he’s over the age limit. There is no excuse for the Mets not to make a serious offer to reunite him with Yoenis Cespedes. If they fail to do so then they’re sending the clear signal to the fans that their aversion to risk of any kind trumps winning. How quickly will fans forget 2015 when the team more closely resembles the ones from 2010-2012? Remember the empty stands? Remember the bags over the heads? Remember when the Yankees owned NY? Do you want that to happen again?