By Paul DiSclafani
Clinging to a 4-2 lead against the Nationals in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to home runs from Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom issued consecutive 4-pitch walks to load the bases with no outs. As the Home Opening Day crowd reached a fevered pitch, deGrom circled the mound, stepped on the rubber and had to go to work.
Because deGrom was cruising to that point, (seven straight outs, 1 earned run and just four hits in five innings), new manager Mickey Calloway didn’t have anyone warming up in the bullpen, so deGrom know it was his mess and he’d have to clean it up. DeGrom got a strike on Ryan Zimmerman before he hit a lazy fly ball to short right for the first out that was too shallow to score a run. Then Kyle Kendrick hit a liner to short that Jose Reyes snagged for the second out. With Trey Turner standing in the way of getting out of a sticky situation, deGrom got him to swing and miss twice to get ahead 0-2, once on a fastball and then on a slider away. Then he got a generous call strike three on a high and away fastball to finish the inning that Turner vehemently disagreed with, resulting in him getting ejected.
DeGrom (W, 2-0) worked out of his own mess to keep it a 4-2 lead. Jay Bruce then blasted a Grand Slam the next inning and the Mets (5-1) take the first game of this early series against the Nationals (4-3), 8-2. In a long baseball season, one game doesn’t define a season, but the Mets certainly drew first blood in their desire to let the Nationals (and the rest of the National League) know that this season is going to be different.
Both teams traded runs in bizarre fashion as the Nats scored in the first inning on an error by Bruce to take a 1-0 lead. The Mets followed by scoring on a balk by starter Stephen Strasberg, the first balk he has committed since 2013.
Down 2-1, Cespedes tied the game in the fourth with his third HR of the season, a laser beam to left field. That seemed to allow deGrom to focus as he got seven straight Nationals before his meltdown in the sixth. But by that time, Conforto had put the Mets ahead 4-2 with a 2-run home run in the fifth. The ball, original ruled a double, was reviewed and correctly called a home run as it cleared the left field wall.
Strasberg (L, 1-1), who was gone after six innings, was charged with four runs on five hits and six strikeouts, watched in earnest as his relief, Brandon Kintzler, ran into trouble in the seventh. With one out, Brandon Nimmo came off the bench and delivered a double off the wall in right. Conforto reached on a four pitch walk, but Kintzler got Asdrubal Cabrera to look at strike three for the second out. He then got ahead of Cespedes 1-2, but he worked out a walk to load the bases, bringing up Bruce. Once again, Kintzler got ahead, this time sneaking two fastballs past Bruce without a swing. But Bruce worked the count to 3-2 before depositing a sinker to deep right-center for his first home run of the year and his sixth career Grand Slam, giving the Mets an 8-2 lead.
Today, the Mets were able to punch the bully in the mouth and get away with it. Let’s see if they can keep it up.
Friday is a scheduled off day, but the weather reports for Saturday in the Nation’s Capital are not promising with snow and rain approaching. Steven Matz (0-1, 6.75) is scheduled to take on Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.50) in the afternoon. Sunday is a night game, with Matt Harvey (0-0) against Tanner Roark (1-0).
POSITIVES: Mets win their first road game of the season after a terrible 2017 on the road (33-48) … deGrom improved to 14-8 in Day Games … Mets have won three straight … Conforto hadn’t had an AB since last August. He scored twice and hit an opposite field HR … Cespedes (3 HR) has 7 RBI in 5 games … Bullpen put up three more innings without a run, allowing just 2 hits and six more strikeouts … Hansel Robles gave up a double in his second appearance, but recorded three more strikeouts. He’s struck out six of the seven batters he’s faced … Nimmo came off the bench with a pinch hit double
NEGATIVES: Todd Frazier went 0-4 and his average dropped to .190 … Jose Reyes went 0-4 and is still looking for his first hit of the season (0-7). He made the Mets first error of the season yesterday and misfired on a relay throw that could have nailed a runner at the plate. He looks old …
By Paul DiSclafani
It’s never too early in the season to face a challenge head on, and just five games into the 2018 Campaign, the Mets (4-1) face their first serious challenge – the dreaded Washington Nationals (4-2). Over the next 12 games, the Mets and Nationals will go head-to-head six times, completing 1/3 of their regular season meetings before we even get to Tax Day. The next time these teams are scheduled to play again will be the last weekend before the All-Star break.
A lot can happen in three months, so that makes these two series more than just games on the schedule. If the Mets want to take their pre-season hype and early season success seriously, they have to give the Nationals a run for their money. You always need to play well against the team you are challenging if you want to get to the top of the hill. Calling the big bully names and saying you are better means nothing if during a confrontation they squash you like a bug.
In 1969, it was the Chicago Cubs coming to town in early September for a 2-game series. The Mets had pared down their 8-game NL East lead to just 2 and 1/2 games. Leading 2-1 in the ninth inning of the first game, Cubs centerfielder Don Young misplayed two balls, leading to two Mets runs and a 4-3 win. The next night, with Ron Santo in the on-deck circle, a mysterious black cat came out of the stands and passed in front of Santo and the entire Cubs bench. The Mets won the game 7-1 to pull within a half-game of the Division lead and the cursed Cubs would never recover.
In 1986, after losing two of three to start the season, the Mets swept a five-game series at home against Pittsburgh and took their 7-3 record into St. Louis for a four game series. The Cardinals, who had tortured the Mets in the previous two seasons, started their season 7-1 (including beating the Mets in their Shea home opener), but had lost three straight. The Mets, looking to make a statement early in the season and to prove they were no fluke, swept the Cardinals and put 4.5 games between them. The Mets never looked back as they dominated the rest of the regular season, winning 108 games and the World Series.
In 2015, the Nationals came into Citi Field in late July for a 3-game weekend series, holding a 2-game lead against a Mets team that had won just 5 of their last 13. By Monday, the Mets had swept the Nationals and taken over First Place and never looked back.
The Nationals beat up on the Mets last season, winning 13 of 19, including sweeping an early April series at Citi field that pushed their NL East lead from 2.5 to 5.5 games. When they met again in late April, the Mets won the first two games of a weekend series in Washington (cutting the nationals NL East lead to 5.5 games) and were looking for the sweep with Noah Syndergaard on the mound that last Sunday afternoon in April. Instead, their season ended as Syndergaard left the game with an arm injury, never to return in 2017, as them Mets (now 10-14) were embarrassed in a 23-5 loss. They never recovered. By the time they got another crack at Washington in late June, they lost three of four at Citi field and were 10.5 games behind.
Mathematically, a win in April counts as much as a win in September. When you are running out of scheduled games late in the season, fans will tend to look back at the April and May games their team lost and lament what could have been if they had reversed just a hand full of those early “meaningless” losses. But sometimes you need to make a statement. The team you are chasing needs to know you are going to be battling them all year. Early in the season is when you have a chance to lay claim to all of your pre-season hype about “this year being different”.
The Nationals have nothing to fear from the Mets six games into the 2018 season. In the last two years, the Nationals are 25-13 against the Mets, but if felt like they were 38-0. Pennants are not won in April, but they can certainly be lost in April.
If the Mets want top give themselves and their fan base some hope for the 2018 season, they have to show up against the Nationals and prove they can play with the Big Boys. New manager Mickey Calloway has instilled a new attitude in the Mets clubhouse and his handling of the bullpen has produced wins in 3 of 4 games. The Mets bullpen has a stingy 1.33 ERA.
even the players know the importance of these three games. “It’s crucial. It’s going to set the pace for the rest of the season with those guys,” Syndergaard said, “They’re our rivals. They’re the front-runners. It’s always nice to go out there and give them a little bit of a challenge. It’s going to be very crucial for us to go out there and attack them.”
After a 4-0 start, the Nationals lost their last two games, dropping their series in Atlanta. They come back to Washington for their Home Opener and get to look at a familiar, yet different Mets team across the diamond. They will be facing a revamped offense, a solid bullpen and Jacob deGrom (1-0, 1.59), Steven Matz (0-1, 6.75) and Matt Harvey (0-0, 0.00) in the Sunday night finale.
No doubt about it, Mets need to take 2 of 3 to make a statement to the Nationals that this season is going to be a dog fight. At least they won’t have to worry about Daniel Murphy this weekend…
The Mets (2-1) will not complete the first undefeated season in baseball history as they fall to the Cardinals, 5-1. However, they did win the series against a good St. Louis team (1-2). Even with the loss on Sunday, the Mets hit the ball well, only to find a lot of leather for outs.
Steven Matz (L, 0-1) took the loss as the Cardinals avoided the opening weekend sweep thanks to Paul DeJong’s first multi-home run game of his career. Luke Weaver (W, 1-0) held the Mets to one run over his five innings and the bullpen did the rest. DeJong, who’s a life-time 1.000 hitter against Matz (3-3), took him deep in the second inning to give the Cardinals their first lead of the weekend, 1-0. It was the second home run that DeJong has hit against Matz in three AB’s. DeJong went deep against Jacob Rhame (making his Mets debut) again in the 8th.
Matz struggled in the first two innings, throwing 51 pitches, walking two and striking out three. But after Ahmed Rosario tied the game for the Mets with another 2-out RBI in the second, Matz surrendered a run scoring, 2-out double to Marcel Ozuna after getting ahead in the count 0-2. Ozuna started the season 0-9 before delivering that RBI double. He followed it up with a run scoring single in the 5th and finished the day with three hits.
Weaver, who won seven straight starts for the Cardinals as a rookie last year, worked in and out of trouble in his five innings, including a 27-pitch first inning that the Mets failed to capitalize on. The Mets managed five hits against Weaver in his five innings and just two more the rest of the way.
Matt Harvey takes the hill to start a three-game series against the Phillies (1-2) tomorrow, who a rare Sunday off after being hammered by the Braves n Saturday, 15-2. New manager Gabe Kapler made a huge boner when he removed starter Vince Velasquez without any pitcher warming up in the bullpen. Hoby Milner jumped up and threw a handful of pitches in the pen before jogging to the mound. When umpire Jerry Lane (the crew chief) allowed Milner a few extra throws on the mound, Braves manager Brian Skitner came out to argue about the delay and was then tossed from the game. Lane would later file a report with Major League Baseball, explaining his decision.
“For whatever reason the pitcher wasn’t even getting ready,” Layne told a pool reporter. “Who got crossed up, I’m not placing blame on anybody because I don’t know. He just wasn’t ready. Hadn’t thrown a pitch. … The last thing I want to do is get somebody hurt. It’s already a messed-up situation.”
Lane did the right thing for the player, but there should be some sort of punishment for Kapler.
POSITIVES: Juan Lagares, playing for a second straight game because Brandon Nimmo had flu-like symptoms, had three hits … Jay Bruce had his first XBH of the year, a double … Jacob Rhame, whom the Mets got in the Curtis Granderson deal from the Dodgers last year, made his Mets debut … Third straight game without an error and the defense turned two double plays … AJ Ramos pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout … Jason Vargas threw a bullpen session on Saturday and is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Monday … Michael Conforto is scheduled to rejoin the Mets on Monday and could be in the lineup as early as Thursday … Mets pitchers have recorded 35 strikeouts in the first three games, breaking the franchise record of 32 that was set in 2005.
NEGATIVES: Todd Frazier was 0-3 with 2K and is hitting just .200 … Roasrio got picked off first after driving home the Mets only run … Jerry Blevins made his first appearance of the season, but walked two before getting the final out of the 8th inning, facing only 3 batters … Anthony Swarzak will be evaluated after leaving the game on Saturday with a strained oblique muscle.
Paul DiSclafani is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which has been recognized by Major League baseball as one of the top 100 blog sites.
It’s not that the Mets won their first two games of the season, although that is unusual, it’s how they won them that has been impressive. They won them with offense, good starting pitching and even better bullpen work. Not a lot to complain about when you start 2-0 against a good team like the Cardinals.
Although the Mets won a World Series before they ever won an Opening Day game, since 1970 they are an incredible 32-17 on Day 1. Unfortunately, during that same stretch, they are 24-25 in Game 2. So we expected them to win Game 1 and would hold our breath for Game 2.
But this team feels different. Not only that, we are seeing things being done with the bullpen that are not formulaic and would make former manager Terry Collins’ head spin.
On Opening Day, the Mets scored nine runs without a home run on seven singles and nine walks. In a game that last year Collins would have used six pitchers, new manager Mickey Calloway previewed how he was going to handle the pitchers. After the Mets broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth to take an 8-3 lead, Calloway stayed with Noah Syndergaard in the top of the sixth. Syndergaard had thrown 75 pitches over the first five innings and on a cold afternoon and the first start of the season, there is no way Collins allows Syndergaard to start the sixth with a huge lead. But Syndergaard, although he gave up a home run, got out of the inning with just 10 pitches and his afternoon was complete – and a bullpen inning was saved.
Calloway then went to Robert Gsellman, who struck out the side. Anthony Swarzak then got a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Do you really believe that Collins wouldn’t have pulled one of them at some point for a righty-lefty switch, burning Blevins for just one batter?
On Saturday, Calloway did something Collins never would have even considered. He let both Gsellman and Swarzak finish one inning and start another. Not unheard of, but certainly not part of the Collins and Dan Warthen playbook. Why not stay with a guy who pitched out of a jam and keep that momentum going?
And then there is the lineup. After Brandon Nimmo was on base four out of five times on Opening Day, Juan Lagares started in Center for Game 2. Asdrubal Cabrera, who was the only position player without a hit on Opening Day, was moved from cleanup to lead off. Catcher Kevin Plawecki hit a home run on Opening Day, but Travis d’Arnaud started Game 2. Raise your hand if you think Terry Collins would have used the same starting lineup after a rousing win when both starting pitchers were right handed. You bet he would have.
Instead, Lagares gets two hits, Cabrera goes 3-5 and d’Arnaud hits a home run.
Hats off to Calloway and whatever he is doing. He has this team playing hard, running the bases, catching the ball and being aggressive on the mound. Maybe we are going to have a lot of fun this season?
REMEMBERING LE GRANDE ORANGE
NOTE: A few weeks ago, when we first learned he was sick, I published this regarding Rusty Staub. Due to his passing on Thursday, I thought I would run it again for those who may have missed it.
Any Mets fan from my generation knows that Rusty Staub was “Le Grande Orange”. He was a player that did not know the word “quit”, but is now fighting perhaps his last battle in a hospital down in Florida. Staub’s kidneys are failing due to a staph infection. Hopefully his condition will continue to improve.
Staub, now 73, played 23 season for five different teams, including two stints as a Met. In his first tour of duty, from 1972-1975, he helped the Mets recover from their post 1969 World Championship fog by becoming a dynamic, yet injury plagued player and leading them back to the World Series in 1973. Many younger Mets fans may remember Staub as one of the best pinch hitters in the game when he returned for his final tour from 1981-85.
Most of us will never forget his heroic performance in the 1973 playoffs. In the first three games of the National League Championship series against the powerhouse Cincinnati Reds, Staub had already hit three home runs and driven in five. In the 11th inning of Game 4, he tracked down a long fly ball from Dan Drieesen in Right Field at Shea, robbing him of an extra-base hit, making a spectacular catch and crashing into the wall, separating his right shoulder. He missed the Pennant clinching Game 5 and sat out Game One of the World Series against Oakland. Then, separated shoulder and all, he returned for Game 2, even though he couldn’t throw the ball overhand. Out in Right Field, Staub had to flip the ball underhanded to a teammate when he fielded it.
How do you hit with a separated shoulder, you might ask? Staub still managed to hit .423 against the A’s, driving in six runs and even somehow managing a home run in the World Series. In just 10 post season games – six of them with a separated shoulder – Staub managed four home runs, 11 RBI and batted .341.
It was one of the most heroic performances I have ever seen on a baseball field, where players have to sometimes sit out a few games for a hang-nail. Staub, who played three seasons in his first tour with the expansion Montreal Expos from 1972-75, would have made a great hockey player. Staub earned the nickname of “Le Grande Orange” for his hair color while with the Expos and was so popular, he was the first player to have a number retired by the franchise.
Later in his career, he returned to the Mets in 1981 and became a player-coach in 1982. He was strictly a pinch hitter, but in 1983, he did tie two Major League Records; eight consecutive pinch hits and 25 RBI as a pinch hitter. To cap off that amazing 1983 season, he hit a home run in his last AB and finished at exactly .300.
Some other Rusty Staub tidbits:
- He is the only player to amass 500 hits for four (4) different teams and finished his career with 2,716 hits
- He is the first Mets player to have 100 RBI in a season, finishing with 105 in 1975. Gary Carter ted it in 1986 and Darryl Strawberry broke it in 1990 (108).
- In his only injury free season (1974), he led the Mets in hits, RBI and AB’s
- He was traded from the Houston Colt 45’s to Montreal prior to the 1969 season for Don Clendenon and Jesus Alou. Clendenon threatened to retire from baseball rather than accept a trade to Houston because he didn’t get along with their new manager, Harry Walker, whom he considered a racist. Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn then ruled Clendenon could stay in Montreal and the Expos amended the deal. Clendenon was traded to the Mets in June of that season and became a hero in our World Series run that season.
- He played in the Major Leagues at just 19 years-old and is one of only two players to hit a home run before turning 20 and after turning 40.
- With Detroit in 1978, he became the first player in baseball history to play all 162 games as a designated history and drove in 121 runs.
- In his 23 years, he was on base 4,050 times – more than Rogers Hornsby or Tony Gwynn.
Of course, he became an even more beloved figure after his career with the “Rusty Staub Foundation”, founding the “New York Police and Fireman Widows’ and Children Benefit Fund”, raising more than $11 million prior to 9/11/2001 and more than $122 million after that.
NOTE: According to his brother, Staub experienced a heart condition while playing golf earlier in the week and died of a heart attack just after midnight on Opening Day of the baseball season. The Mets will be wearing a black circle patch with Rusty’s signature in orange on the sleeve of their home and away jersey. For the first two games of the season, they hung Staub’s #10 jersey in the dugout as a tribute.
THIS AND THAT…
So if Nimmo and Lagares are off to good starts, what do we do if Michael Conforto is ready to come back next week? … Not completely sold on this pitcher-batting-eighth thing, but it seems to be working. Hitting Cespedes #2 has also worked out. Statistics show that the #2 batter gets the most RBI opportunities in the lineup. Don’t believe that, just ask Derek Jeter … Todd Frazier plays a nice third base … After two games, Robert Gsellmen has more AB’s than Jose Reyes … Mets sporting a .512 On Base Percentage in first two games with 23 hits, 14 walks and a handful of HBP … The Bullpen has combined for 6.1 innings (between Gsellmen, Swarzak and Familia) for 3 hits, 1 R and 10 K … Adrian Gonzalez has been on base five times in 10 plate appearances … Best statistic of the first two games? No errors … Nice to see David Wright being announced to the crowd during the Opening Day ceremonies. He looked a little gaunt, but it was a touching moment between the fans of this franchise and Wright. He gave us everything he had when he could. If this is the last time we could cheer him as a player, so be it. Mike Piazza may have been one of the best players we have ever had, but Wright and Tom Seaver are the only two players that could be labeled “Franchise” players. They were ours from the beginning and we loved them from the beginning. My generation had Tom Terrific and my kids generation had David Wright. Good luck, David. We’re pulling for you…
Paul DiSclafani is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which has been recognized by Major League baseball as one of the top 100 blog sites.
There is something different about this Spring Training down in Port St. Lucie. Even though the roster is essentially the same as last year, there is a different feeling this year. It’s a fresh start for the coaches, players and even us fans.
While the Terry Collins years gave us a lot of ups and downs, I think we grew tired of how the players, specifically the pitching staff, were handled. And although every spring was a fresh start, it was beginning to get tired and old. This year, things seem different for some reason.
There seems to be a fresh approach to solving existing problems instead of just hoping that they will work themselves out. The front office went out and plugged some holes with veteran players on short-term contracts. We have a real third baseman now, a solid run producing outfielder and a four-man bullpen that should be able to match anyone in baseball. Sandy Alderson even went out and got us another starting pitcher, and a left-hander to boot.
Obviously, the Mets chances of being a playoff team rest squarely on their ability to keep their starters healthy, but what team doesn’t have the same goal? The healthiest teams are usually the playoff teams, not the most talented.
In the new non-steroid era, keeping players healthy and on the field is more challenging. Last year, the Mets were so worried about protecting their starters that they were babied and held back during the spring – and where did that get us?
So while I’m cautiously optimistic, I think the roster is solid and will compete while navigating the injuries just like all the other teams. Maybe this year, with a former pitching coach making all the decisions, things will be different. Hope springs eternal, right?
AN ALARM CLOCK FOR DOM
Seriously? Could you imagine what would happen to you if on your first day of work in a new office you showed up at 10 am or in the middle of the daily briefing meeting? I understand that it happens to everyone from time to time, but this just shows a lack of maturity at best and a lack of caring at worst.
This kid was called up before he was ready last year and that is on Alderson and Collins. But his being out of shape was on him and him alone. Now you show up late for the first game of the spring when you are the starting first baseman? How is that even possible?
Everyone was touting Mickey Calloway’s demeaner and his reaching out to all the players after he was hired. He preached how all the players were going to be treated as people and not property. Then on his first “real” day on the job, he has to deal with some pampered kid who has the gall to not be on time for Day 1?
Calloway did all the right things by sitting his sorry butt on the bench and then letting him deal with the media on his own. That’s how you treat a man-child. You discipline him, make him responsible for his regression and make an example for all the others. Calloway is not going to hold this against Smith for the rest of his career, but for 24 hours, you bet he will.
People who learn from their mistakes advance in this world. Making a mistake is not a death sentence and as long as this kid shows his determination and willingness to work hard and improve, this becomes just a like lesson – like Syndergaard in 2015 when he was caught having lunch in the clubhouse while the team was playing a spring training game.
Fans screaming for Smith’s head are overreacting, but a pattern seems to be developing with this kid. You don’t demonize your own child because he got his hand caught in the cookie jar. You discipline the child and move on, hoping they learn from their mistakes.
First impressions are hard to change when it comes to the fan base. Let’s hope this is the last time this kid fails to be a professional. We need him to learn to live up to his potential as a #1 pick.
ARE THEY KIDDING ME?
I understand the “pace of play” issues Major League Baseball is trying to address. I think a good start is reducing the time between innings to just 2:05 on a “regular” local telecast. With two breaks per inning, that’s still over 36 minutes of “non-playing” time, but the league needs it’s advertising. What it doesn’t need in an unlimited number of mound visits between the catcher and the pitcher, or obvious “stalling” visits by an infielder while the guy in the bullpen throws a few more warm-ups.
Let’s see how that arbitrary limit of “6” conversations per game works out. Can’t say I’ve ever noticed how many of these pow-wow’s actually occur during a game, but this is a rule that really has no effect on strategy or statistics. I guess we are going to need something on the scoreboard for NOMV (Number of Mound Visits).
They have the number of “challenges” the manager has left, don’t they?
When you watch “classic” games from the 60’s and 70’s, you notice a few things that seem to be lost in the modern game:
- The pitcher gets the ball, looks for the sign and throws it.
- The batter is already in the box and ready by the time the infield has returned the ball to the pitcher after an out. And he isn’t fiddling with batting gloves, or banging his spikes or doing yoga to get loose. He is in the box, ready to hit, even after missing a pitch or fouling one off. And every since Derek Jeter came into the league, why does every batter have to step in the box with their hand in the air and ask for time while they get ready.
- A foul ball that doesn’t go into the stands get out right back into play.
I can even see why you might want to consider putting a runner on second starting in the 11th inning in today’s game where using six pitchers in the first nine innings is the norm. The use of pitchers in a baseball game has changed and that puts a strain on arms in the bullpen.
But allowing the losing manager to bat whomever they want in the ninth inning of a game they are trailing? Why would anyone even consider that? Why not just use your six best hitters all the time? That allows you to have bases loaded with no outs and not have to remove a player from the base paths because he is now the batter. You can then use any eight position players you want and interchange them freely as the game goes on.
Hey, here’s an idea – how about making baseball like modern football? Nine offensive players and eight defensive players? What about using softball rules, three swings and you’re out? Or what about taking a page from the NHL’s Power Play rules and make a team play with just two outfielders for a period of time if a player gets hit in the head with a pitch?
What about a three-player Home Run derby (three swings each) instead of extra innings? Most home runs wins.
Wait a minute, that’s not a bad idea…
THIS AND THAT:
Wasn’t it great to see Zack Wheeler looking sharp? Granted, you had a “Here-we-go-again” moment when his first pitch of the year was lined into center field for a base hit, but he struck out two batters and didn’t struggle. We’ll take it … Nice to see the Mets win a game on Friday, but they scored six runs against five nobodies in the eighth inning. Otherwise, they were held to two hits in the first seven innings … Hey, don’t those pitchers Alderson got for Addison Reed and Jay Bruce look pretty good? … Sad to see David Wright having to answer questions about his health. Can we just leave him alone and let him make a decision when he is ready? There is no need for a death watch from the media … So Alderson said he thinks Tim Tebow will make it to the majors at some point. Good for him and good for the Mets. He works hard and seems to be improving, although he still swings like a lumberjack. Too bad he’s not 24 years old …
Paul DiSclafani is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which has been recognized by Major League baseball as one of the top 100 blog sites.
When asked why the Mets would invite Tim Tebow to be one of the 15 non-roster players to participate in the Major League Spring Training camp, GM Sandy Alderson said, “I think he will play in the major leagues. That’s my guess. That’s my hope, and to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation.”
And why not? Tebow, now 30, is running out of time. He has been working hard at relearning the craft of baseball. He’s only played 126 minor league games at the Single-A and A-Advanced levels, but spent considerable time this off-season with the Mets hitting coaches, working on his swing. He’s a little leaner (about 12 pounds) and also worked out with his Jacksonville neighbor, Daniel Murphy.
“I think for me [the biggest difference] was going into the offseason knowing what I had to work on because [2017 was] my first time playing a season for 12 years, since my junior year of high school,” Tebow said. “So it was really going into the offseason where I could really make the changes. It’s hard to fully make changes in a season when you’re competing one night, you work on the next day, you compete the next night, so it’s hard for those changes to really lock in.
“Going back, looking at all the changes that I wanted to make in every area of the game and then setting a plan of action of, ‘OK, we’re going to spend four weeks on this, six weeks on this,’ and so we had a plan going into of what we wanted to get changed. You don’t have to go compete that night, so that makes it a little bit easier to sink in.”
Although Alderson has never commented on Tebow’s chances of making it to The Show before, Tebow is still taking everything one day at a time.
“My goal isn’t about what’s going to happen one day,” Tebow said. “My goal is to focus on this day and our outfield work, my training session, getting to know all the new coaches, and working as hard as I can. I got into this because I love it. I’m passionate about it, and I think for me it’s being able to lock in and have tunnel vision regardless of what team I’m on wherever they decide to put me.”
Now Alderson is giving him a better than average chance at one day roaming the outfield at Citi Field. “He’s dedicated himself to improving,” Alderson said. “Spent a lot of time in the offseason working with hitting coaches and so forth. I think realistically given his age, given where he started, he and we need to try and accelerate the process. This experiment, if you will, is not going to last forever, but he’s made meaningful progress.”
Unlike the failed Michael Jordan experiment, Tebow has shown that although he has been out of the game for 12 years, he can actually play the game. He hit .226 with 8 home runs, 24 doubles and 52 RBI while toiling with the Columbia Fireflies and the Port St. Lucie Mets. He even had his average over .300 during the season.
He may be a long shot, but there is no quit in Tim Tebow. “I tried to go in open-minded, learning, knowing that I haven’t played this game in 12 years and that I wanted to absorb as much information as I could, make the changes, try to improve, try to grow as an athlete — not only physically and mentally in every different way that I could understand the game,” he said. “Instead of learning on the fly, now I get to have the chance … to be able to react, and that always makes you a much better athlete.”
If that isn’t the Feel-Good story of the 2018 season, I don’t know what is.
Welcome back to baseball, Mets Fans!
After the euphoric 2015 campaign, we went into 2016 with high hopes, only to come crashing down as Connor Gillaspe became this generation’s Mike Scioscia in the Wild-Card game. But even with all the injuries that almost derailed the 2016 season, we knew 2017 couldn’t possible be as bad. We were getting back Zack Wheeler and the pleasant surprises of 2016, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, would provide pitching depth. Hell, we had so many starting pitchers now, we let Big Sexy, Bartolo Colon, go.
Instead, 2017 was worse, much worse.
Noah Syndergaard, who was going to be the NL Cy Young in 2017, was gone after just 30 innings. Matt Harvey, returning from Thorcic Outlet Syndrome, was suspended because he broke up with his girlfriend and lost his ability to pitch at this level. Michael Conforto injured his shoulder just swinging the bat. We lost our closer, Jeuyrs Familia to a blood clot and Yoenis Cespedes only played half a season (81 games). Instead of saying “Brruuuccceeeee” for Jay Bruce, fans were booing him and he was traded at the deadline. So was Lucas Duda. The unbelievable depth at starting pitching the Mets had during spring training dissipated before our eyes day after day. Steven Matz was awful before finally being shut down. Wheeler finally came back from his 2015 Tommy John surgery after missing all of 2016 and started promisingly, but he had to be shutdown in July after a “stress reaction”. By the time the season was over, guys like Tommy Malone, Tyler Pill and Adam Wilk were starting games.
So after a 92 loss season miserable came to an end, heads just had to roll, starting with Terry Collins, Dan Warthen and some of the other coaches. Then the medical staff was axed. With a depleted farm system, the Mets need a lot of help at a lot of different positions and don’t have a lot of bullets left in the chamber. What’s a GM to do?
Although 2018 can’t possibly be as bad as 2017, wasn’t that what we all thought about the 2017 season after the debacle of 2016?
But this time it just feels different.
Sandy Alderson went out and got a quality manager that plays to his team’s strength – starting pitching. Mickey Callaway, who had never managed at any level, takes over for Collins. His area of expertise is pitching, a huge need for this organization. For the first time, the Mets have a skipper that not only was a pitcher, but understands the mechanics and the psyche of pitching. One of the biggest complaints every Mets fan had last year, outside of injuries, was how Collins and Warthen were mishandling the pitching staff.
While the bandwagon Mets fans were howling about the off-season activity of that other NY team in the Bronx (like Stanton was really going to come to the Mets), Alderson was slowly filling the numerous pot-holes that have been derailing the Mets wheel alignment for years.
With the uncertainly of the return of Conforto, he went out and signed back Jay Bruce, who he traded to Cleveland for relief pitcher Ryder Ryan in 2017. Now the Mets don’t have to rush Conforto back and Bruce should be able to provide 30+ homer runs for an offense that is going to once again rely on the home run.
Worried about Dominic Smith at 1B? So was Alderson, so he signed Adrian Gonzalez to hold down the fort and tutor Smith, who reported to training camp 30 pounds lighter and ready to learn.
Although it tugs at our heartstrings, it’s time to stop waiting for David Wright to make it back. Alderson plugged a huge hole by signing Todd Frazier, a professional third baseman. The man can play the position, be a veteran leader in the clubhouse and hit 25-30 home runs. What’s not to like?
Anthony Swarzak will plug the Addison Reed hole in the bullpen. Except he throws 95 mph and is coming off the best season of his career, averaging 10.6 strikeouts per 9 innings. He appeared in 70 games (77 innings) and struck out 91. That gives the Mets a solid late inning bullpen with Swarzak, Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia.
What about the starters? Although only deGrom escaped the DL in 2017, there was only one lefty starter on the roster – Steven Matz. Alderson bides his time and then goes out and signs a guy who won 18 games last year, Jason Vargas. The soft tossing lefty could fill the hole left by Colon as a consistent, veteran that takes the ball every five days and gives you six or seven quality innings.
And all it cost was money. Not that the Met’s had anything to trade, but some of the other free agents out there come at the price of a draft choice and cash from their International pool. When your farm system is ranked 28th in baseball, you can’t afford to give those things away. This allowed Alderson to build up the roster depth the Mets sorely lacked last year, while not mortgaging the team’s future. None of these free agent deals is over two years long.
Time to see how all these new pieces come together as the first full squad workout begins on Monday. It just can’t be as bad as last year, right?