Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Apologies to the Beatles, but these thoughts are written not after the 7th game of the season but the 8th. There have been a number of surprising early season developments, some good and some bad. Let’s take a look.
How Quickly They Forget!
Last year Jay Bruce’s arrival sounded like a good thing even if it meant sacrificing heir apparent to second base, Dilson Herrera. It seemed like a stiff price to pay for a rental but he was leading the league in RBIs at the time he was acquired so it was thought that he’d ignite the Mets’ moribund offense.
We all know what happened. Jay Bruce didn’t really come alive until the final couple of weeks of the season but by then most had written him off as another player who crumbled under the pressure of playing in New York. When Yoenis Cespedes exercised his free agency, Sandy Alderson chose to pick up Bruce’s option for the 2017 season. At $13 million it was a fair price considering he was a 30 HR/100 RBI kind of run producer. However, when Cespedes returned the Mets were left with four quality outfielders for 3 positions and if not for late Spring injuries to Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto would be swinging for the fences in Las Vegas.
Well, with the long week of games already done, who’s the most productive slugger on the team? Hint: it’s not the $27.5 million dollar man with the awesome car collection. It’s none other than the untradeable Jay Bruce who already has slugged 4 home runs. In fact, in an article excoriating Terry Collins for inexplicably benching Conforto after his big day on Sunday, I actually saw the words in print, “red hot Jay Bruce”. Who’da thunk it?
When Things Go Wrong…
Well, if you’re a rookie and you have a bad game, you might as well take up another profession. If you’re a veteran, you get more second chances than Steve Howe. Witness the Jose Reyes treatment. During Monday night’s game the announcers used words like lost, clueless and needing a break. Does the Skipper give him a day to clear his head and insert either Wilmer Flores or T.J. Rivera? Of course not…stay the course, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. It must be nice to have that veteran status on this club because it means you’re always going to be in the lineup. No one is suggesting this change be permanent, but just as Curtis Granderson got a day off, isn’t it time to think about doing the same for Jose Reyes? To Skipper's credit he bowed to pressure and pushed him down in the order yet still ahead of Travis d'Arnaud.
Speaking of Slow Starts
Given the terrific past two years of productivity and the immense size of his contract, no one is making the same suggestions about sub-Mendoza Yoenis Cespedes who is flailing about pitches down and away in the dirt. No one is equating a league average player like Jose Reyes (0.4 positive WAR in 2016) with Yoenis Cespedes and his 2.9 WAR last year. Still, the slow start isn’t helping the club at all. With just Conforto as a spare outfielder right now perhaps it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to sit Cespedes for a day as well. Of course, between when I wrote this paragraph and now Cespedes had his 3 HR/5 RBI/4 Hit game but even with that he's hitting around .250 which is evidence about how poorly he'd started the season.
A number of pitchers are off to rough starts, including the heretofore untouchable Robert Gsellman, pushed-to-pitch-in-the-cold Zack Wheeler, reliever Rafael Montero blowing his big chance and newcomer Paul Sewald. Like the hitters, it’s too early to consider making any drastic changes, but this quartet has been disappointing to say the least.
Aces in the Hole
Noah Syndergaard, Jacob de Grom and Matt Harvey have pitched like, well, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob de Grom and Matt Harvey. That’s why the Mets are currently sporting a winning record despite a team batting average of just .200 (which, not surprisingly, is the worst in the league). Harvey left last night's game due to tightness in his hamstring, but his ERA lowered to a tidy 2.92.
The Unsung Hero
With all the accolades given to Neil Walker last year, a lot of what Asdrubal Cabrera did flew under the radar He's picked right up where he left off. Thus far he's over .340 including a triple shy of the cycle on Tuesday.
Help May be on the Way
Juan Lagares is leading the pack with a rehab assignment already in minor league games, so the return to a full complement of outfielders should not be much longer – perhaps as soon as he logs three games down there to bring him to the mandatory 10 before coming off the DL.
There’s no such news about Brandon Nimmo yet, but he’s likely going to be replacing Michael Conforto in order for the Mets to “give him the opportunity to play every day” which is newspeak for “artificially manipulating service time to give the Mets an additional year of financial control once he spends 55 days in the minors.”
David Wright has started throwing – soft tossing – but depending on your perspective that’s either good news or bad news. If he could be a productive player again it would be great news as it would render Jose Reyes into a bench player. However, Wright’s throwing has been subpar for quite some time and expecting him to come back and throw at a professional level is probably unrealistic. From a front office perspective, they would probably see him hit the 60 day DL to open up a roster spot and to allow insurance money to kick in.