Archive for This Friggin Team

Sorry State

The Mets are a wreck again, determined to waste unbelievable years from a core of young players, while little has changed since last week’s coach firing squad and subsequent reporter-threatening-fake-contrition act. The bullpen still stinks under new pitching coach Phil Regan and returning bullpen coach Ricky Bones and as a result they remain a rotten road club that’s going backwards in the standings when they had every opportunity to move up.

Regan was given the same No. 58 removed from Dave Eiland a week but the Mets should have played along and given him No. 82. Bones, who replaced Chuck Hernandez, was given the same No. 25 he’d worn in his previous role, while Hernandez surrendered No. 59. A new “pitching strategist,” Jeremy Accardo, is wearing No. 60. It hasn’t helped.

With Noah Syndergaard set to return after missing two starts with a hamstring issue, Walker Lockett was up and down in 61. Yesterday the Mets promoted a guy called Chris Mazza and gave him No. 74. When Mazza appears it will be the first appearance of that stupid number in club history.

Can the Mets be fixed? I don’t think so. There are a few things overhanging this season that are casting an ominous shadow. Chief among them is the idea that the offseason’s alleged “big bang” has been a complete disaster with Edwin Diaz unreliable at the top, and Robinson Cano stifling the offense by hitting third every night despite being one of the worst everyday players in the league. Let’s just admit it: The Mets would better off having not made that trade in the first place; instead they bet their whole identity on it.

Speculation as to when the club fires Mickey Callaway is another dark shadow. As we advocated for a few weeks ago it only appears to be a matter of time for him and this latest incident and the reporting around it hasn’t helped. As often the case with the Mets it comes with questions as to who’s really pulling the strings. My working theory today is that the stealth coup pulled off before last season–hamstringing Sandy Alderson in order to get Omar Minaya back in the organization– is still quietly doing evil at the behest of old Fred. Brodie Van Wagenen isn’t the mastermind here but rather the polished public face and salesman for the idiotic and regressive Minaya Playbook: Move heaven and earth for some other team’s relief pitcher and take the baggage with him. This is where it’s got us. Now how about that apology.

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Stepping Out of A Hole

Well, what do you know.

Mickey Callaway hasn’t been fired and the Mets have started winning again. Those things no doubt will change at some point, maybe soon, but let’s enjoy it now while we can.

The injuries are slowly piling up, for example. Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes might never get here. Conforto is concussed, Nimmo is out with a sore neck and Cano might have hurt himself hustling. New Mets hero Rajai Davis is here and wearing No. 18; interesting inasmuch he was issued 11 in Spring Training, but that went to Adeiny Hechavarria. And with Seth Lugo joining Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan on the shelf, Hector Santiago arrived. He’ll be wearing No. 33.

Along the way we can close the book on Keon Broxton, traded to Baltimore for draft money yesterday, and perhaps on Paul Sewald, one of those organization relievers whose champions, if he had them, left the building a while ago.

Poor Sewald. Of the six pitchers who wore No. 51 in team history none have seen more action than Sewald’s 107 games and 128.2 innings, but all of them have at least as many wins, which is to say zero. He departs as the losingest pitcher (13) without a win in Mets history.

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M-I-C Ya Real Soon

Well it sure looks like it’s all over for Mickey Callaway, whose club seems to have abandoned him in his hour of need. When Jeff called an emergency meeting after the last crappy road trip, you, me, and all 25 guys in the locker room knew it was either play better or Mickey walks the plank. And so he’ll go.

I tuned into Thursday afternoon’s game and was reminded it was a day just like that one last year, a year and week and change, weekday afternoon game in May, when Mickey’s signature moment of unpreparedness–the batting-out-of-order game–gave us a true look at what we were dealing with. Mickey made a great first impression; I think his attempts to paint the picture of things how he wanted them to be, instead of telling us how they were, was too obvious at times; and for a second year in a row he’s proven not to have what it takes to pull a club out of a spin.

Of course the old and underperforming club he has is on a rookie GM who’s also made a bunch of dumb mistakes and already looks like a fool for his confidence in them. “Come get us.” Please.

Knowing the Mets pattern of solving last year’s problems this year count on them to make a show of Callaway’s inexperience and hire the most experienced guy they can. This process will take place while Jim Riggleman gets the “interim” tag, hopefully not for more than a few weeks. What a mess.

This when the big story in our world should be Carlos Gomez’s surprise arrival in No. 91. Yes that’s the first issue of that number in Mets history and apparently refers to a bible verse favored by the erstwhile outfielder and not to his fondness for Butch Goring, evidently a remark by Howie Rose.

We’ll deal with the Craig Swan 46 stuff in another post soon.

 

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Groovy Tuesday

New Mets are here including Daniel Zamora (still wearing 73) and Todd Frazier (still wearing 21), and Luis Guillorme (still wearing 13); taking the places of the still-ineffective Chris Flexen, the injured Justin Wilson and Paul Sewald, same as he ever was.

That the Mets added more hitters than pitchers on a night that Steven Matz started was somewhat remarkable though I suppose if Amed Rosario is feeling better that won’t last for long. But generally speaking, I like our chances better with a big bench than a big bullpen. The latter just seems to emanate from a point of view of doubt and failure; the former gives you options that could make the difference in needing to go as deep. It may not have ultimately mattered last night but it was good when we got Arietta out of there just by showing them the hitters left on the bench. More offensive options make a manager look good; fewer hitters and more relievers force them to make passive decisions and infect their club with a sense of dread.

Tonight is my 2019 Maiden Voyage to CitiField, where I’ll be for pretty much every home Tuesday game this season. Tuesday was a rough day of the week last season, when I also sat there and had to watch, and the club isn’t exactly off to a flying start on Tuesdays this year: Other than a win in Miami, the Mets have surrendered 14 runs on consecutive Tuesdays and are averaging 11 opponent tallies.

Uh, let’s go Mets.

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Intervention

Scoring six runs and staggering to the finish every night is probably better than scoring 2 runs and staggering to the finish so on balance it’s pretty good start to the new year. But before we crown Brodie Van Wagenen for his genius consider the guys really making stuff happen were already in the organization, we’re short on pitching and have veteran infielders on the way to replace guys who are actually getting things done and if like me you worry about things, Robbie Cano, his three-hit Friday night notwithstanding, looks more like Robbie Alomar than Jackie Robinson so far. Combined with some sketchy decisionmaking by Mickey Calloway, the Mets are a barely disguised wreck with a pretty good offense, as I discuss with my friend Brian Joura in this week’s Mets360 podcast. Hopefully they get better. Hopefully the pitching improves with better weather.

Catching up on the first batch of transactions, Travis d’Arnaud is back, replacing the over-his-head Tomas Nido. It would have been cool to see him return in No. 7 rather than the 18 he was moved to when the Mets reacquired Jose Reyes. You might recall d’Arnaud came up wearing 15, then switched to 7 once undeserving coach Bob Geren gave it up. Then, the Mets reacquired Jose Reyes and d’Arnaud was on the move again.

7 is available again — Gregor Blanco wore it in spring training and maintains it in Syracuse–but d’Arnaud maintained at the time he switched from 15 that 7 was his preferred number and for what it’s worth, his play in that jersey was considerably better than min either of the other numbers.

Yeah, I know, it’s too late to save Travis d’Arnaud’s career but just to illustrate:

Number Dates AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
15 8/17/13-9/28/14 484 52 113 25 3 14 46 .233 .299 .384
7 4/6/15-7/4/16 321 38 86 17 1 13 49 .268 .336 .449
18 7/5/16-present 546 62 129 23 1 19 69 .236 .290 .386

You know what though? It’s not too late to save Chris Flexen. The chunky righty showed some promise amid ugly results in his first go-round in 2017, then got fatter and less effective last year, eventually requiring knee surgery. Over the offseason, Flexen addressed his expanded waistline and true to the cliche reported to camp in the “best shape of his life.”

Flexen in an address to Mets fans early in 2018 said he was happy with 64 but also expressed admiration for 27 and 33. The latter has been nominally available since another fat pitcher with an 7-ish ERA, Matt Harvey, was released. Rule 5er Kyle Dowdy wore it this spring before getting swiped by Texas in a procedural transaction.

Flexen as you may know is slated to debut today now that Jacob deGrom is getting his elbow examined and is out at least a week. The Mets should do the right thing, give him 33, and reserve 64 to guys like Elmer Dessens.

Other guys who came, and some who went, include Drew Gagnon (47), Paul Sewald (51) and now, Jacob Rhame (35) and Corey Oswalt (55).

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Front Office Fred-anigans

Well here we are days or even hours away from a new leader in Metland and the team can’t decide whether they need a grandfatherly caretaker, an egghead disruptor, or an agent fluent in corporate buzzspeak.

But that’s the Mets all over. And it’s not just that they don’t know, it’s that they don’t know why they don’t know, and so whomever they ultimately wind up hiring they’ll have hired for all the wrong reasons. I’ve said here many times and in many ways but the Mets don’t solve problems, they make a show of trying to look as though they do. And the problems they try and solve are almost entirely of their own making, because they’re so incompetent.

Take for example the case for Bob Melvin cited in the Snooze article linked above. If the Mets decide what they need is a people-manager who’ll put out infighting it’s only because Fred assured that outcome when he went behind his GM’s back to secure himself a right-hand man in Omar Minaya and the manager he tried to depose as special assistants. Of course it had bad results.

Or if you believe the Mets are analytically illiterate and in need of Yale grad like Chaim Bloom, that’s probably because they haven’t sprung for a staff in the first place, despite having one of the best minds in the game in charge. Jeff’s remark that it was Sandy Alderson who insisted upon the lack of front-office brainpower has got to be one of the cheapest shots he’s ever taken, but hiring an “analytics guy” would be the best defense against that charge, so there’s your case for Bloom.

I don’t know a whole lot about how an agent like Brodie Van Wagenen got this far, but you can guess from the Mets’ point of view it’s an end-around on a renegotiation of the Cespedes contract, and on the brighter side, an avenue to keeping deGrom locked up. Perhaps then the message they’d send with this hire is that they’re getting smart on money finally after being rich-dumb and poor-dumb.

I’ve gotten really cynical, you might say.

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25 or 6 to 4

And you thought batting-out-of-order was embarrassing.

In addition to setting any number of dubious marks for margin-of-defeat, and beyond the gruesome repudiation of the decision not to have sent Steven Matz to some other club during the few weeks over a long career he remotely resembled a reliable starter, and ignoring the cold reality that last year’s trade deadline acquiree Jacob Rhame was among those comically unable to stop the bleeding, the Mets made a bit of uni history last night when Jose Reyes pitched the 8th inning.

The putrid effort marked the appearance of the lowest uniform number ever to appear on the mound for the Mets (7) and only the second time a single-digit pitcher threw an inning for the Mets. You have to go back to May 17, 2001, when Desi Relaford chucked a scoreless inning of relief in a 15-3 loss to the Padres.

This friggin team.

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Bashlor No. 49

The moves are coming faster than I can mock them, but sadly not as frequently as the losses, for these cursed Mets.

Tonight Chris Flexen, who was here presumably as an emergency starter but didn’t get a start even amid an emergency, is headed back to Las Vegas while Tyler Bashlor is up from Class AA. Some prospect watchers have a thing for Bashlor so perhaps he stays for a bit but who knows. If we’re lucky he’ll craft together as good a few months as Hansel Robles, who once upon a time was a stealthy minor league prospect who slipped into the bullpen. Bashlor will wear No. 49, last belonging to Josh Smoker a year ago.

As for Robles, he was DFAed last week, as even the talent-starved Mets had had enough of waiting for him to regain the form that resulted in one of 2015’s biggest surprises. Without him, the Mets still gave up seven home runs yesterday. I was a fan of Robles back when. Tough customer with an ornery attitude, got under the under guy’s skin. One night during a rain delay in Washington, he signed a ball for my son. Thanks for that, Hansel, and best of luck in Anaheim.

 

When Robles departed, reserve outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski arrived, wearing No. 16, while Drew Smith, the booty in the Lucas Duda trade also came by wearing No. 62: It was only a few weeks back that Scott Copeland (who?) was wearing that number. Paul Sewald in the meantime is back at AAA and Jason Vargas is on the disabled list again, so we have that going for us.

***

Hey! I’d like to invite you all to a special night of baseball, guaranteed to come without a Mets loss. This Thursday at 7 p.m., head over to Two Boots Midtown East, for an event thery’re calling “Reading, Writing and Rusty” where Greg Prince (Faith & Fear in Flushing; PIAZZA; AMAZIN AGAIN); Dave Jordan, author of co-author of the terrific John D’Aquisto biography FASTBALL JOHN; and me (ONCE UPON A TEAM) will be on hand to promote our various projects, sign books, eat pizza and discuss Rusty Staub. Two Boots has great pizza! 7 p.m. June 28: 337 Lexington Ave., between 39th and 40th Streets in Manhattan, convenient to Grand Central Terminal. More details here and here.

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Meet the Mess

I don’t have anything profound or interesting to say about the trainwrecking Mets, their putrid play, their washed-up struggling veterans, their suddenly ineffective manager, their underperforming bullpen, the developing war between the front office and their slow-healing superstar or the appropriate fire in the CitiField lobby, but I can get you caught up with the parade of stiffs help making it all happen after missing a week to a biz trip and other calamities.

Joey Bautista, who passed through on paper during another disaster of a season 14 years ago before collecting 300+ home runs for other teams so the Mets could finish 25 games back with Kris Benson, has come back on — you guessed it — a cheapo deal and is now hitting 3rd in our order and wearing No. 11. I’m with Richard who suggested below that Jay Bruce ought to give Joey Bats his customary No. 19. Jay can try and negotiate with Steven Matz for 32, or just, you know, wear a blank jersey because that would match his contributions so far this year. Get it together, Jay.

The banged-up relief corps has added and subtracted a bunch of stiffs, some of whom we’ve seen before and some whom we may hopefully never see again.

They include: Scott Copeland (who?) who wore 62; and Tim Peterson, given 63; and Chris Flexen, 64. Could Kevin McGowan be far behind? Regardless this past week marks the first time the Mets have suited guys in Nos. 62-65 in the same season, which tells you something. Gerson Bautista whose surrendered home run to Javier Baez will land shortly, I’m told is back in 46, as is Buddy Baumann whose sidewinding, stirrups and No. 77 would all work better were he capable of having a single good outing, but we’re still waiting.

On the injury front we’ve lost Noah Syndergaard and Wilmer Flores, two guys who have been something less than best selves so far but so still better than the ones replacing them. Steven Matz is having his usual scares. Kevin Plawecki came back in time to address the dearth of right-handed bats and lose last night’s game hacking at the first pitch against a gassed tomato can having the night of his life. Phillip Evans and Tomas Nido both came and went again. Hansel Robles and Jose Lobaton — there’s a late-inning battery to inspire, huh? — came back.

Can anyone here play this game?

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Of Order Out

Another disgraceful showing by the Mets on Wednesday in Cincinnati where Mickey Callaway blew what once looked like an opportunity to earn Manager of the Year honors, while the offense even without the handicap of giving away a first-inning rally on a careless batting-out-of-order penalty wasted a rare decently pitched game by Zack Wheeler and lost to the lowly Reds 2-1 in 10 innings.

It goes without saying this rotten stretch by the Mets needs to stop immediately but if there’s a catalyst out there I’ll be damned if I can find it. Yoenis Cespedes is playing with his customary quad troubles, Todd Frazier’s on the disabled list and Jay Bruce is off to Texas on a weekend paternity leave. We’re not going to miss Hansel Robles who’s having a knee problem checked out, deGrom’s still a question mark, Conforto is still slumping, Amed Rosario isn’t exactly making a case to stay at shortstop and the addition by trade of Devin Mesorasco so far is a very-small-sample-but-hugely-symbolic bust. The guy caught Reds pitching for years but can’t hit it. What happens when he faces a real team?

It’s not like the cavalry has come to the rescue. Instead it’s Luis Guillorme, a wizardly fielder who is prepping to make his MLB debut wearing No. 15. We’re investigating whether he was actually assigned No. 14 but inadvertently given the wrong jersey by the manager.

And they want us to pay attention?

 

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