4/25/17

David Rubin - Another Mets Season is Here: aka "TRYING Not to Panic In April"

16 comments


Living in SoCal, I don't see the rioting in the streets all throughout NYC, calling for the head of Mets Manager Terry Collins, pitchforks and Scythes in hand; I don't get to see the annual throwing of batteries and beer bottles at the head of Jose Reyes, suddenly 96 years of age, as he can no longer dodge any of the debris in the same fashion he dodges hard-hit baseballs at third base; and I no longer see residents of apartment buildings all throughout the 5 boroughs, Long Island and Jersey throwing their TVs out their 6th story windows (and HOW do they ALL live on the 6th floor???!!!)




Okay- none of that is happening- YET- but there is DEFINITELY panic in the air, and, as a lifelong Mets fan (celebrating the 49th anniversary of my first live game at Shea this June at the tender age of 4 in 1968), I know firsthand that the reason for any panic, anger, etc comes from the deep passion and long years of frustration invested in this team of ours!!!!!  Because of that passion, I'm trying to direct my own towards other things, lest I harm myself and/or many others as GKR signs off each game. We know there are many things to blame for the angst and worry we are feeling, beyond the fact of just existing as a Mets fan!

My friend, who lives in Florida, another who still lives in New York and I discuss these things on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, and what follows are some of the litany of things to blame this season's poor start upon:

Terry Collins' is a terrible game manager

Injuries

Failure by Sandy to change the Offense from a home run-based team to an on-base based team

Failure by Sandy to properly resolve the Outfield situation

Jose Reyes getting 96 overnight

Failure by Sandy to bring in a satisfactory Lead-off Hitter

Injuries

The Nationals getting on fire early in the season led by ex-Mets favorite Daniel Murphy

HORRIBLE bullpen management by Terry

Neil Walker, Grandy and Legares providing nothing so far

Injuries

Did I say Injuries??

Okay- let's address all of these briefly (because, if I go on too long writing it, and you go on too long reading it, we are ALL likely to throw TVs out of our windows, which won't do much for me since I live in a ranch-style, one-story home!!)




1.)  Terry Collins

Beyond the fact that he stays with veteran players long after they've proven their worth (or lack of), refuses to give younger players like Conforto and Flores a chance to hit against both lefties and righties and appears to be blowing out all of our bullpen arms before June, he's also had to adjust to many injuries early in the season, deal with a shortened bench and find a way to draft a line-up that won't result in being no-hit thru the first 6 innings more than once per week!  Some additional Terry-based points:

➽The main advantage we have over most teams is the quality of our starting pitching; however if they are only 6 inning pitchers then that advantage is not that great
➽The reason managers sometimes bat the pitcher 8th is to get a second leadoff hitter batting in the 9-spot. Well, Terry puts Reyes in the 7-hole and Rene Rivera at 9, negating the point of it.
➽The undying loyalty to Reyes and Granderson is nuts. Not playing Conforto prior to the injury to Cespedes is mind boggling- and what happens when he's back- does Conforto sit again? Two Wednesdays ago (this week) he had 2 hits including a Homer, with 2 RBI's and 3 runs scored and the reward was to sit 3 of 4 games vs the Marlins. The Marlins announcers kept going on as to how Conforto must be in the lineup. They know it, we know it and the only one who doesn't seem to know it is Collins. Terry keeps saying Reyes needs at bats to get going but won't has never given the now-injured Flores that same deal when he has proven to be a more productive player. When Flores comes back from being sick, hopefully very soon, let's see if Terry goes back to playing him selectively again, which is sadly a pretty safe bet.
➽Actually it's almost a rule that if you hit a homer you will sit the next game. The second week of the season, when we weren't yet flagging down every ambulance that drrove by the stadium,  Conforto Duda and Cabrera all sat after hitting homers. I understand why Cespedes and d"Arnaud sat, but there was no excuse for those three to sit.
➽When Don Mattingly and Disty Baker out-manages someone in the same month, it's a bad bad thing for your team!

➽When Terry pulled deGrom after 6 innings and only 97 pitches, the team went on their downward spiral. It's not a "cause-and-effect" thing, but the fact that Terry is over-using his bullpen, playing lefty/righty match-up as often as a newborn has their diaper changed and is cursed with making all of the wrong pitching moves so far this season is a combo that will prove deadly during the dog days of summer when every reliever is clutching their arms in pain! He's not consistent in how he handles his staff, except that he's consistently bad in doing it. The blame can be spread around equally between front office interference, Terry, Pitching Coach Dan Warthen and the staff themselves, but at the end of the day, the face of the problems is Terry's.

➽Finally, we have all heard the old saying that "managers manage, players play" and it's an ongoing discussion/battle as to whether or not a manager can cost a team games versus blaming everything on the players'. We've all watched enough games to know that no matter which side of the argument you are on, there's no disputing the fact that Terry's moves and lack of moves, his inconsistent bullpen use, his stubbornness in playing veterans over rookies and his constantly being out-maneuvered by opposing managers has sadly put a bad-tasting coda to Collins' long career. If things stay the same, it would seem to be a "no-brainer" that Terry would be fired, probably by the All-Star break if not sooner. However, this being the Mets of Wilponville, it won't happen and he'll simply be retired at the end of the season and work in the front office with young players once again. Irony, though art a wicked master...



2.) Injuries

Last year, the Dodgers at one point were spending more on players on their DL (over $100 million worth) then the payrolls of more than 5 or so teams in MLB. It was frustrating for them and their fans, but when your payroll is well over $250 million (at the time) it was almost as if they were able to field 2 teams, not one. The Mets don't have that luxury, and when the DL includes (either officially or unofficially) Cespedes, Duda, Lugo, Matz, Cabrera, d'Arnaud & Flores,it's not an easy thing to come back from, let alone continue to field a team daily. That's not even mentioning Captain David Wright, who at this point has as much chance of regaining his All-Star playing form as Josh Hamilton does!! 




At some point, injuries happen; how this team handles them, and their entire medical staff (philosophy, communication, training, etc) has always left something to be desired. Whether it's muscle-training with Mike Barwis, or surgical procedures performed at the NY Hospital for Special Surgery, nothing seems to help regardless of the pedigree of those involved. Injuries on the team's watch seem to haunt this organization like no other - and Lugo's over-usage for the Puerto Rican WBC Team was the responsibility of  Manager Edwin Rodriguez, former Marlins manager, in spite of the presence of Mets Bullpen Coach Ricky Bones on his coaching staff. The team just can't get a break, and the frustration for fans isn't just the loss of these players for any period of time, it's the fact that they just seem to derail our pennant plans on far too many occasions.

When Sandy took over, one of the things we all hoped for was a complete upgrade of the Medical Staff, at all levels, It hasn't happened yet, and while they're not responsible for the majority (if not all) of these injuries, their seeming inability to bring players back to the roster in a reasonable amount of time IS!!

3.) Sandy's Off-Season Moves

It's ironic that the 2 players who have provided the most consistent offensive production so far this season are a guy Sandy wanted to desperately trade (Jay Bruce) and one whom the manager doesn't want to play regularly (Conforto). Sandy was praised for bringing back Cespedes this off-season, and he certainly deserves that praise. He also brought back some of the more reliable bullpen arms from last season in Blevins and Salas, but both came rather last minute and only as the result of not receiving better offers earlier in the Winter. What Sandy did was bring back that ole' gang of ours, without bringing in any new blood, which was both satisfying and infuriating at the same time! Guys like Walker (although injured) and Blevins were key parts of our 2016 success and it was good to see them return. However, one player who was NOT brought back would have offered a better safety net for the pitching staff, one BARTOLO COLON!


Mets' fans believed that one more year of Bart was called for, in spite of the fact that we were already looking at a rotation of Thor-Harvey-deGrom-Wheeler-Matz with Lugo and Gsellman waiting for their chances; with Harvey and deGrom coming back from serious injuries, Wheeler still trying to come back after 2 years from TJ surgery and then finding out that Lugo was seriously hurt in the WBC, their beliefs were justified. I have to admit, I really didn't agree at the time, before Lugo was hurt, that allocating funds to Bart instead of holding onto that money for a June or July transaction was the way to go. I am not too big to admit my mistake, but at $12 million this season there's no way that Sandy would have gone that high. In fact, the reality is that the Mets never even entered into negotiations with Bartolo and his agent, so he was never in the plan. 


What ALSO wasn't in the plan this Winter was bringing in a lead-off hitter, at least a "proper" one, who isn't named Jose Reyes and isn't Curtis Granderson! Which brings us to point number:

4.) The Nationals Hot Start

With Virginia's own, Ryan Zimmerman, seeming to have found the fountain of youth (unlike our third baseman and fellow Virginian); Daniel Murphy picking up where he left off last year; Bryce Harper healthy and motivated; Trea Turner back at SS and playing up to expectations; and, finally, with the addition at the top of the order of former White Sox OFer Adam Eaton, the Nats' line-up is as strong 1-5 as anyone in baseball. Add that to a strong rotation and their horrible bullpen hasn't yet cost them as much as expected. Their starters are going long, and strong, and their hitters are hitting as expected. Like 2015 for us, all of their success so far is in spite of Dusty Baker, a manager like Terry who is also known more for his handling of players then for his in-game strategy. Dusty, like Terry, has been known to make double-switches at the wrong time, but unlike Terry, Dusty didn't do it when he already had a severely depleted bench. Long-term, Dusty will see the results of not having a decent bullpen, but that time hasn't happened yet and, as long as the Mets keep playing the way they are, by that time the Nats will be so far ahead of us that we'll be praying for a Wild Card. 



5.) The Curious Case of The Ever-Aging Jose Reyes

The Mets starting offense features the oldest average age in the NL, at 30.3 years. They currently are 2nd in homers but have the fourth worst batting average in the league at .211. They don't hit doubles, they don't hit triples, they don't bunt, they barely hit and run and, in fact, they barely run at all. The man who was supposed to help in that phase of the offense is old "friend" Jose Reyes - and at this point, he's perhaps the oldest-looking 33 year old I've ever seen. His quick-twitch reflexes have been left in Florida; his ability to move laterally moves a first-time viewer to speculate that he's standing in deep mud; his over-swinging at bat serves to cool off any fans waiting for a strong breeze; and, finally, his slow start at a time when his most able replacement, Flores, is sick combines for the worst of all possible outcomes. Reyes 2016 season gave what now seems to be false hopes to the front office, knowing that the chances of Wright making any meaningful appearances this season was slim, at best. As such, they didn't pursue any potential replacements in the off-season. After all, that would have cost money, and thanks to the Blue Jays eating the majority of Reyes' contract, the Mets are paying him the major league minimum. That means that not only did they pray he would pay off on the field, it also meant that they may have been more confident in paying Cespedes as they had a premium position taken care of at a bargain basement price. It's not working right now, and knowing when to call it a day is something that the team will, most likely, err towards too late then too early. So, basically that means we can expect to see him in the orange, white and blue for quite a while still, unless they finally agree to bring up the best prospect in baseball to take over, but that's speculation for our next point. 

How bad, though, has Reyes been? Well, he's not alone in stinking up the joint right now, as Neil Walker seems to be slow in returning to pre-injury form and Curtis Granderson, as usual, won't start playing well until it gets truly warm outside. In fact, I keep telling anyone who would listen that someone needs to purchase Grandy a calendar that says JUNE, not APRIL!!! Reyes, as the player expected to be leading off, has responded with 1 hit in 29 at-bats, with 5 walks and an incredible 16 strike-outs overall (7 walks overall, 5 of which came from the lead-off spot.) He's been just okay in the field, as his hesitation in throwing from shortstop wasn't as much of a hindrance when he was 10 years younger and his arm strength was at its' height. With runners in scoring position, he's been 0 for 9 with a walk, and he has been a complete bust batting lefty from any spot in the order, He was once a beloved member of this team, prior to leaving as a Free Agent, and before his Domestic Violence incident came to light. Now, he's a player who has relied on speed, an attribute that is the first thing to go as a ballplayer. He's never been one for plate discipline, and his fielding was often hit-or-miss, relying on his speed to make up for a bad read or being out of position, He doesn't have that luxury anymore, and unfortunately he's been reduced to a shell of his former self.

In the meantime, as far as solutions at third base (and the bench) go, there's one guy out there who still hasn't been signed and, in the wake of losing Ty Kelly to waivers recently (don't even get me STARTED on that point) he remains a good alternative at this point - one KELLY JOHNSON!!!! 




Money- that's all it would take- and a phone call - and some time to get into shape- but that call should have gone out weeks ago, and unless someone else has beaten us to him, it's something Sandy needs to do IMMEDIATELY!!

And, finally...

6.) Dom Smith and Amed Rosario - To Bring Them Up Now or Not To- THAT is the Question! 

We know the answer already, which is that you do anything you need to do in order to win. Period, Games won or lost in April DO mean as much as those played in September. You can't go backward in time and change the outcome when you are one or two games from the play-offs when the season is done, and therefore games lost at any time of the year are important. Relying upon late season call-ups, trade deadline moves and waiver transactions are often too little, too late unless you are that one player away and you happen to be lucky enough to be in position to make that deal. You know- like when you get to trade a future rookie of the year for the best slugger on the market, someone like Yoenis Cespedes!!! Sadly, folks, trades like that don't come too often in the life of a team, unless one is the KC Athletics, and the other team is the Yankees, and we go back in time to the 1950's or 60's! 


The reality is, there won't be a blockbuster trade this year, unless somehow Sandy pulls another miracle out of his hat. Trading Smith and Rosario would be a major mistake,, but at the same time, neither one will be brought up until the "Super 2" deadline has passed and an additional year of team control belongs to the team. Rosario at short would mean we could move Cabrera to third, platoon him with Flores and would be like having a coach on the field for Amed. Having Smith at first would mean that Duda could become a trade chip, but his value in that role will be minimal as he's going to be a free agent at the end of the season and his injury history takes away from his long-ball ability and his talent for getting on-base. The Mets would also, most likely, have to eat some of Duda's salary and get next to nothing in return, so the thought of trading him isn't one that incites excitement for anyone involved. 


Finally, where does this leave us as a team? What now? Well,  this Friday, the staff at Mack's Mets is going to attempt to answer that question, and you'll have the chance at that time to share your thoughts on what's best for this team right now. Remember- the team won't spend tons of money, especially not on a long-term contract for an older player. They are reluctant to bring up young studs like Smith & Rosario, running the risk of losing them one year earlier to free agency. And, finally, the possibility of firing Terry this season is remote at best. Gee- have we tied everyone's hands yet? Thrown them into the river in chains like Houdini? I can't wait to see what happens- and I can't wait until Friday to see what solutions the excellent writers here come up with!!! I also can't wait to see how this weekend's series against the Nationals goes, because I think we'll have a LOT more answers when that series is finished!

Until then, as always, LET'S GO METS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

16 comments:

Mack Ade said...

This pretty much covers it all...

Reese Kaplan said...

You stole a lot of my thunder in this articulate and well reasoned rant about the state of panic that is beginning to feel justifiable by the day. I'll be echoing a lot of these sentiments in the piece I have scheduled for tomorrow. However, I am calling for a couple of changes heretofore not recommended.

David Rubin said...

Reese- I truly look forward to reading it! There are a number of other things that I would do if I was running the club but I almost don't want to speculate about them because I just don't think they are going to happen and I will get my blood pressure up higher than it already is! LOL!! Cecchini & Nimmo promoted for starters...

Mack Ade said...

Repetition about issues like this from writers is a good thing. Readers need to know how each of you individually think.

I will updating on the site later who goes on the DL when they activate Matt Reynolds for tonight's game.

David Rubin said...

Totally agreed Mack!!!!

Thomas Brennan said...

Great article, David. Rosario added to his case for call up with 2 hits and 2 walks last night (.413)....compare to ol' Jose. No brainah!!

Nats are ready to run away from us. They have hitters who constantly threaten you big time. We have hitters who fail.

Jack Flynn said...

Great stuff Dave. I agree with Mack - if each writer just took one of these topics and put his/her own spin on it, we'd have content for a week.

Do we have any female writers? If not, we have to get some!

Thomas Brennan said...

Jack, Hillary Clinton just offered to write here. Mack politely declined!

Jack Flynn said...

Mack, were you really polite about it?

Thomas Brennan said...

Actually, it was when she requested $250,000 per article, written of course by her speechwriters. Mack could only go up to $225,000

Mack Ade said...

( I was holding out for Pocahontis )

Thomas Brennan said...

Mack, not her! How about Sarah Palin? She can see Citifield from her front porch.

Reese Kaplan said...

You betcha!

You could always go after Michelle Obama and then have Melania Trump take credit for it.

Dallas said...

Nice article.

Couple of random thoughts:

Mets have the best ERA in the NL. This with Familia missing the first 15 games, another failed experiment with Montero, Gsellman and Wheeler getting off to slow starts.

Dominic Smith isnt close to ready. His numbers need to be a lot bigger in Vegas to impress me. A .857 OPS in Vegas is like a .550 OPS in the majors.

David Rubin said...

Thanks folks!!!

I found a VERY interesting stat- we need to stop playing on Friday & Saturday and just play Sunday-Thursday!! Mets are 0-6 on Friday & Saturday- if we didn't play those days, we are 8-5 and good to go!!! LOL

Smith is hitting well but he's not gotten on fire yet and with the guys we have I'd still rather see Bruce at 1B for now.

Rosario would be one of the 4-5 best fielders in MLB at SS right now, and I have no doubt that, with his hard work, intelligence and good tutoring he'd be able to adjust at bat reasonably well. However, the sad thing is that, although it should NOT be an issue, ESPECIALLY for a team in NY, they won't promote him because of the damn Super 2 status. It's idiotic at this point!!

Mack Ade said...

I dohave to say it has been fun having two nights free from this crap

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