Phoenix Risers

Having somehow survived until now the banged-up-but-still-in-first-place Mets are finally getting a few reinforcements.

Returning tonight in Arizona are reliever Seth Lugo (67), first baseman Pete Alonso (20), and smashed-face outfielder Kevin Pillar (11), and AAA outfielder Mason Williams has been promoted. Going down are useful guys with options: Patrick Mazeika (76), Sean Reid-Foley (61) and Khalil Lee (26); Cameron Maybin (15) and lottery-ticket relief prospect Sam McWilliams have been designated for assignment.

They coulda just torn the “Mc” off and given him 52, but Mason Williams will wear No. 70 because that’s how they do it these days. Williams is lefty-hitting former Yankees’ prospect who’s also had a cuppa with the Reds and Orioles. He was evidently hitting his way out of Syracuse in a way that Lee was not.

Let’s keep it going guys.

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60 Seconds

Leave it to the Mets to trade for a guy who was just waived by Milwaukee, suit him up in No. 60, and bat him cleanup.

Billy McKinney tonight becomes the second position player to wear No. 60 for the club (Andres Gimenez wore it last year) despite No. 7 sitting around unissued. Anyway McKinney seems a decent emergency outfielder with the ability to hit one out now and again and a tendency to get exposed over longer periods as a starter. Like a lot of our guys, he’s a former Blue Jay and Brewer.

We’ve been over this before but just because Marcus Stroman found 7 sacred doesn’t mean the Mets have to, and the idea that they are “saving” it (along with 8 and 17 which were all once okay to use but today are mothballed as the club slow-plays retirement ceremonies that troublingly intermingles jersey retirement and club Hall of Fame) is really coming around to roost with 17 guys on the disabled list. And unless they’re also stealth-retiring Rick Aguilera and RA Dickey, I think 38 and 43 are still out there. Or have I lost count again?

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What Outfield?

It’s a shame Sandy used that joke already because anything to diffuse the one on the field every night would be welcome. Lots of bad news on the injury front–besides the return of Jacob deGrom this evening which I’ll be watching live (or dead) in Citifield tonight.

Quickly catching up on Team Scrubeenie, there’s Yennsy Diaz in 64; Brandon Drury in 35; Wilfredo Tovar (man he’s put some weight) in 72 and as expected, Cameron Maybin in 15. James McCann is hitting 3rd and playing first base because Tomas Nido is the best hitter on the team. Johneswhy Fargas is the second-best so he went and collided with the wall last night.

 

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Viva Los Scrubeenies

Is it magic? Is it sustainable? Is it just that the Braves are more screwed up than us right now?

I’m not ready to buy into any explanation of how the Mets continue to defy the odds and lead the division with this group, whose underperforming stars have been obscured by overperforming reserves for weeks now. You could be positive and say they simply possess that winning gene but let’s wait till we’re at least 10 games above .500 before we entertain that.

Even guys like Khalil Lee, whose swings reveal inches of space between bat and ball, are managing to contribute with their gloves. Johneswhy Fargas in the meantime is already the club’s top cheerleader and has obliterated every record for guys who wear No. 81.

It would seem likely that Lee, who needs more work on contact, would be the guy to go back down if and when the newly acquired Cameron Maybin arrives. This guy was once a top draft pick (went ahead of Mike Pelfrey that year) and hopefully invested some of that bonus money in luggage: The Mets will be his 10th organization and represent his 13th move among franchises: He’s a three-time Detroit Tiger and two-time Marlin, and also toiled for the Padres, the Braves, the Angels, the Astros, the Mariners, the Yankees and the Cubs.

No. 15 is still available (as is 35, now that Trevor Hildenberger was waivered-up by the Giants) so let’s expect 15.

Kevin Pillar, who said all the right things following his frightening beaning, was replaced on the roster by infielder Wilfredo Tovar who last appeared for the Mets wearing No. 70 in 2014. He’s wearing No. 72 this time around.

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Oh My Nose!

Well that was gross. I’m talking of course about the Mets performance over the weekend in Florida and not last night’s gruesome hit-by-pitch which broke the nose of basically our best player this year, Kevil Pillar. Typically, mopping blood off the playing surface is a hockey thing, and in that spirit, let’s salute Pillar for going into the dirty areas, winning those one-on-one battles, keeping his feet moving and all all those other cliches Butch Goring admiringly ascribes to Casey Cizakas as the Islanders face their own long odds in the playoffs.

The injuries never stop: Our new outfield is Johneswhy “Huggy Bear” Fargas, wearing No. 81; Khalil Lee, No. 26, whom we referred to below; Jake Hager, No. 86; and likely, another reserve palooka to be named later. We will enter those into the database shortly, but I don’t need to tell you that Fargas and Hager are about to rewrite every record for the guys to have worn those jerseys, which is none unless you “count” Wally Backman’s September coach callup in 2011, which we do but not very enthusiastically.

Taijuan Walker in the meantime is hurting, Carlos Carrasco is returning slower than anticipated, Joey Lucchesi isn’t working out and don’t look to Syracuse nor Binghamton for reinforcements: Both of those clubs are having awful starts as graduates and Brodie’s trade-the-farm-and-finish-in-fourth approach is delivering that bloody nose we knew was coming.

I’m silently advocating they say the hell with it and promote Ronny Mauricio from Single A Brooklyn. The guy’s going to have to move off shortstop eventually.

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A New Low for the Mets

The Mets made history last month and I didn’t even realize it.

Their 4-0 victory over the Phillies April 13 was achieved behind a starting lineup whose summed uniform numbers totaled 64–obliterating theĀ  lowest combo we found the last time we researched this question, which I’m also pretty sure is the only time that question has ever been asked. Granted there are Marcus Stroman wearing No. 7 starts that our data scientists are busy researching. But here’s the new winning combo:

  • 9 Nimmo, CF
  • 12 Lindor, SS
  • 2 Smith, LF
  • 20 Alonso, 1B
  • 6 McNeil, 2B
  • 11 Pillar, RF
  • 1 Villar, 3B
  • 3 Nido, C
  • 0 Stroman, P

That 64 crushes the combined 84 we’d found from July 3, 1962.

But there’s still more. The Stroman start came in the second game of a double-header in which Taijuan Walker started the first game, making for an unbeatable spread between starter digits. It also happened to be only third time in club history the the Mets had Black starting pitchers start both games of a doubleheader, according to research from my friends at the Crane Pool Forum. Al Jackson and Roadblock Jones started a twin-bill on April 29, 1962. And On Aug. 17, 1980, Ray Burris and Roy Lee Jackson did it.

So three all-Black-starter doubleheaders; all of them against the Phillies; the Mets split ’62; were swept in ’80; and swept in ’21.

Sorry to have overlooked this incredible achievement; I have to admit, I only realized this because I was thinking the other way.

With James McCann turning into a double-play machine and magic squirting out of the bat of Patrick Mazeika, I thought “Why not give the rookie a start?” And if we did, why not pair him up with Taijuan Walker? ThatĀ  starting-battery sum of 175 I’m certain would be a club record. The Nido-Stroman duo is also the lowest-ever, darn near the lowest possible.)

But when trying to construct a mock Met lineup whose combined total would surpass the magic number of 300 I could barely do it (the record for highest-ever lineup, we’ve figured, occurred back in 2016, when it totaled 324). There are simply too many guys with sensible numbers on this team. Plus two outrageous outliers in Walker and Stroman, creating the opportunity to make history every time out there. You could look it up.

*

A seven-game win streak was put to a stop last night as Lindor, Conforto, Alonso, and Smith combined to go 0-for-15 (throw in McNeil, 1-for-19), and the bullpen couldn’t save a tight one.

Not everyone can be as hot as Villar or Pillar. And if you told me we’d get 7 in a row without deGrom…

Albert Almora, who intrepidly smashed face-first into the fence the other night at Citifield (we we over in the left-field corner: the sound was scary), is on the IL and Khalil Lee, the prospect acquired from Kansas City in the three-team deal that facilitated Andrew Benintendi’s move from the Red Sox to the Royals (Franchy Cordero went to Boston, along with Josh Wincowski, a relief pitcher the Mets acquired in the Steven Matz trade–plus an Ex-Met To Be Named Later) is up with the club, wearing No. 26, and has inherited Almora’s role as the least-used guy on the roster. Like Daniel Zamora, who’s been up-and-down a couple of times already, he’s yet to seen any action.

Lee is a lefthanded-hitting speedster who strikes out too much but can go get in center field. Let’s hope he can complement the “Bench Mob” behind this recent hot streak.

 

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I Smell A Rat

In the aftermath of the explosive controversy and heroics surrounding last night’s extra-winning walkoff comeback victory over the Diamondbacks, the MBTN’s Investigative Team put on its journalism shoes and uncovered exclusive footage from the tunnel leading to the Citifield home clubhouse to confirm that indeed, Francisco Lindor was full of it when he told reporters a between-innings punch-up with teammate Jeff McNeil concerned a disagreement over the teammates saw a rat or a raccoon in the tunnel. Watch:

Indeed, it was tradition. One that brought to mind another high-priced savior import Bobby Bonilla, who once asserted a mid-game press box phone call was to check in on the health of an official and not to lobby an official scorer’s decision.

This tall tale–and Luis Rojas’ weak demonstration of his role as a leader of men–obscured a few historic moments including the debut hit and RBI for both Patrick Mazeika and all Mets who ever wore No. 76 (zero till last night despite Mazeika’s few no-show appearances); two surprise scoreless innings from new arrival Tommy Hunter; and Lindor’s own awakening for a season-long slumber. Maybe we should all punch Jeff McNeil in the face; I’d be lying if I said he didn’t seem to need one himself from time to time.

Thanks for the updates as new coaches Hugh Quattlebaum is now in 56 and Kevin Howard in 54.

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Quattlebombed

What’s next for these guys?

As you might have noted I’d been kinda leaving the Mets alone in hopes they’d reveal themselves as one thing or another but looks again that might be a while.

Waiting to hear the result of Jacob deGrom’s MRI as I write this and fresh off the midnight whacking of the club’s two hitting coaches, still waiting for any kind of consistency, injuries, frustration, dreadful slumps, sloppy play, moments of glory, innings of crap, hours of games: Mets Baseball 2021!

I even got out to Citi Field for the first time in more than a year a week ago tonight and can report that it remains 20% colder and damper than anywhere in NYC. That evening Peterson struggled, the offense struggled even more and we lost to a Red Sox team that should have beaten us worse. I’m now fully vaccinated, licking doorknobs, and you’ll find me out there most every Tuesday night.

Catching up on roster moves we’ve seen the debut of Jose Peraza (18) finally after a couple non-appearances and had Daniel Zamora (73) up and back. Word is Jordan Yamamoto (45) is on the way and I thought only hours ago that could be for Stroman and not deGrom.

That was a strange firing, a weird press conference and some curious dat-after reactions: I miss the beat writers in the clubhouse to sniff these things out. I found Zach Scott’s detachment and business-speaky remarks dissatisfying, as were the softball questions from the participating journos and the day-after narrative: Pete Alonso crying? After last season? The strong relationships Davis forged over zoom? Has anyone noticed Francisco Lindor has 3 RBI, is leading the team in plate appearances, and is hitting .160?

The roster doesn’t yet list the uni numbers of the new coaches, perhaps we’ll know when deGrom’s diagnosis comes in. By the way, coaches all wear sweatshirts over the unis anyway–and I’m certain Chili Davis didn’t suit on Zoom last year– so I’m barely aware that they Davis had been wearing No. 54 and Slater 56. You’d think Hugh Quattlebaum and Kevin Howard would take those respectively, then wear sweatshirts over them.

 

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It’s A Long Season Already

I’m beginning to have some doubts about Luis Rojas. I know it’s not his fault the club suddenly cannot hit but as we saw last year, inconsistent play and an no demonstrated ability to correct things when they go wrong is already bleeding over to this year. I think it’s also troubling to confront the fact that the second choice of the previous administration somehow survived the appointment of a new owner and two new general managers. It’s really been a bad start to a promising year.

JD Davis and Dellin Betances are on the DL. Betances, whose spring performance seemed to indicate something was very wrong, has been replaced for now by Trevor Hildenberger, the former Twins righty signed as a minor league free agent over the offseason. Hildengerger is wearing No. 35 but chances are we’ll never see him because Rojas so far only trusts a couple of his relievers.

Davis, who for a short time had the most consequential HBP this year, is nursing a hand contusion and Jose Peraza is up in his place. Peraza has a good package of experience for a bench player: He’s young, fast and versatile if not a great hitter. He’s wearing No. 18, which last belonged to reserve outfielder Ryan Cordell.

Peraza’s promotion means Franklyn Kilome is booted from the 40-man roster.

 

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Giveaway Day

We’re piecing the numerical roster together as guys appear and the job would have been easier and less stressful had our overmatched young manager Luis Rojas not made a complete disaster out of last night’s opener, showing off his new team instead of trying to win.

I probably don’t need to remind you of this but Rojas was the second choice of the previous administration, managed the best-hitting team in the league to miss the playoffs by a mile in the easiest season there ever was to make the playoffs then shamefully turned last night’s mismatch into a giveaway.

I’m trying not to come off as your dad here. Rojas himself said deGrom would have been good for 100 pitches beforehand, only to fall back on a cowardly and unconvincing revelation that it was “ups” and not pitches all along, but essentially, arguing that either would have valid when neither was. This is a confused and untrustworthy kid out there. What an awful waste. I hadn’t been so excited for an opening day in five years.

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