Archive for This Friggin Team

Born in the 50s

The following essay was submitted by longtime reader Edward Hoyt. If you’d like to contribute your own takes on Met uni matters, and especially if it’s up to the level of excellence displayed here, feel free to pitch me at mbtn01 (at) yahoo dot-com.

There’s always an interesting lede when a player returns as a coach to a team he made a mark with as a player. If he was a particularly good player, his homecoming is celebrated with some level of excitement. If he had previously passed through without distinction, it can still be a feel-good story with a potential for redemption.

But after that first day’s story, there’s frequently a minor tragedy — visible on a daily basis — when that player gets his uniform, and it underscores that that whatever value a man might represent as a coach, he is still just a coach. The players get the low numbers and coaches get a number in the fifties … or worse. Leftover numbers.

With most coaches, we shrug. This is their lot in life. But with the coach who had previously played for the team, what heart isn’t touched by the cruel marginalization of seeing Mookie Wilson’s 1 become 51, of seeing Bud Harrelson’s 3 displaced by 53, and Howard Johnson’s familiar 20 being twisted and distorted into a 52 (wtf?)? These fleet youthful birds of yesteryear return to us with the anonymous digits of backup linebackers and special teams long snappers — easy-to-release taxi-squad regulars.

So it is with a ray of spring sunshine that we today see a youthful Jeremy Hefner return as pitching coach (nearly an effing half century younger than his predecessor) in the same 53 he brandished as a player. He had the small grace to come to the team under circumstances no more dramatic than the hiring of a coach (a minor league contract in January 2014), got a number that reflected that, and briefly flourished in it. But when his status upgraded itself to rotation mainstay for about a full season split between 2012 and 2013, his number stayed the same. So his return as a coach in such high digits is not a dim a signal that he can tack on a few more paychecks by cashing in on a large legacy, but that he’s here to add some more substance to a small one — the same guy in the same uniform with the same number on a somewhat different road.

When last heard from in a Mets spring training camp back in 2014, Hef was a bit player in one of those stupid Matt Harvey dustups that always seemed perfectly timed for a day when there was no other news. The team was settling into their spring digs and Harv decided to complain that rehabbing players were not dressing next to the active players training and preparing for games. Now, there are certainly sound arguments for and against keeping everybody integrated even if they’re on a different springtime agenda, but rather than make an internal appeal, Harv decided to take his case to the media. And to make it clear this snit wasn’t about him, he decided to drag poor Hefner into the argument. The Mets are marginalizing me and Hef, the two Tommy John rehabilitation cases, Harvey complained.

Hefner, suitably, seemed embarrassed to be dragged into the story, presumably happy to still be receiving a big league salary that was now existentially threatened — his status even more tenuous than the number 53 implied. And when that status exploded alongside a second UCL tear before his rehab was done, ending his career, the story was about whether the fall of Harvey’s rehab partner would serve as an object lesson for him.

It was always about Harvey.

But now, released from the Angels and finding no suitors this offseason, it is The Dark Knight facing the doorway of oblivion, non-roster infielder Max Moroff getting little attention in Harvey’s old 33, and Jeremy Hefner returning to his 53, ready to build on a legacy that is now all his own. While other players returning as coaches have their light dimmed by a number assignment in the 50s, Hef is shining all the brighter.

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Mets Spring Training Historical Record

MBTN’s readers are the best readers. One of them, who chooses to remain anonymous, has painstakingly assembled and graciously shared the following staggering bit of overlooked team history, which we will present in two parts. Today, here’s a look at the club’s year-by-year spring training record. Now, few of us put real stock in spring records but it’s not like meaningless and overlooked details have stopped us before.

Excluding ties, the Spring Mets are just a tiny bit better than their regular-season counterparts with a .487 winning percentage to the club’s .481. And hat’s off to the 1988 club, whose performance in Florida set the spring standard. We’ll share more detailed data on spring records soon.

Year W L T PCT. XT-PCT.
1962 12 15 0 .444 .444
1963 15 12 0 .556 .556
1964 10 17 1 .357 .370
1965 11 15 1 .407 .423
1966 14 10 1 .560 .583
1967 13 13 0 .500 .500
1968 9 18 1 .321 .333
1969 14 10 0 .583 .583
1970 13 12 1 .500 .520
1971 15 12 0 .556 .556
1972 15 8 0 .652 .652
1973 11 13 0 .458 .458
1974 11 13 0 .458 .458
1975 8 18 0 .308 .308
1976 4 11 0 .267 .267
1977 11 14 0 .444 .444
1978 10 15 0 .400 .400
1979 10 13 2 .400 .435
1980 5 11 0 .313 .313
1981 13 13 0 .500 .500
1982 10 14 0 .417 .417
1983 11 12 0 .478 .478
1984 13 11 0 .542 .542
1985 13 12 0 .520 .520
1986 13 13 1 .481 .500
1987 12 14 1 .444 .462
1988 19 10 0 .655 .655
1989 12 18 0 .400 .400
1990 8 5 0 .615 .615
1991 15 14 0 .517 .517
1992 15 15 0 .500 .500
1993 15 14 0 .517 .517
1994 21 13 0 .617 .617
1995 17 20 0 .459 .459
1996 16 12 1 .552 .571
1997 11 14 2 .407 .444
1998 19 11 1 .613 .633
1999 15 16 2 .485 .516
2000 14 12 1 .519 .538
2001 18 10 3 .581 .642
2002 12 19 1 .375 .387
2003 16 14 2 .500 .533
2004 13 20 1 .382 .394
2005 17 11 2 .567 .607
2006 16 14 1 .516 .533
2007 12 21 1 .363 .375
2008 20 11 1 .625 .645
2009 18 15 1 .529 .545
2010 14 16 1 .451 .467
2011 17 15 2 .500 .531
2012 9 20 2 .290 .310
2013 15 15 3 .455 .500
2014 14 16 2 .438 .467
2015 19 12 2 .576 .613
2016 8 17 5 .267 .320
2017 15 17 3 .429 .469
2018 10 18 3 .323 .357
2019 13 16 2 .419 .448
TOTAL 769 810 54 .471 .487
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Addition By Subtraction

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately! Among other things, the MBTN Headquarters building moved to Queens from Brooklyn after 15 years. Like Carlos Beltran, this is a return engagement in the boro: MBTN, now approaching its 21st birthday was born in Manhattan and moved to Queens shortly thereafter, decamping for Brooklyn in 2004.

Also, how can I say this? It hasn’t been a very inspiring offseason yet, unless you are a fan of addition by subtraction. By this I mean the Wilpons and not Zack Wheeler. Five years by my estimation is way too many (for the Wilpons, not Zack Wheeler). That, and the silly chatter on ugly black uniforms, idiotic threats of trading Brandon Nimmo for Starling Marte, and the latest Yoenis Cespedes kerfluffle… So far, yuck.

I’ll miss Zack Wheeler, who departs New York as the Mets’ all-time strikeout king among guys who wore #45 (and 12th among wearers of any Met uniform). He was second to Tug McGraw in win s and innings; and second to Mark Carreon in hits, doubles, runs, home runs, and RBI. He was a good player and I especially don’t like that he wound up in Philly.

To replace him, the Mets have signed two down-on-their-luck veterans, both of whom believe they’re going to be starters, begging the question as to who’ll be the odd man out among the returnees. I could probably get behind Steven Matz going the bullpen but not sure if that’s what the club has in mind. Perhaps they’ll copy other clubs and do “bullpen games.” The new guys are Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.

As relayed in the comments by MBTN reader Richard, Wacha wore No. 52 with the Cardinals, which is not available if Yoenis Cespeds overcomes whatever foolish activity he took up while rehabbing and cost himself millions. Wacha wore No. 38 at Texas A&M, but that’s taken by Justin Wilson.  I’m pencilling him in to wear 45. Shudder.

Porcello wore No. 22 on the Red Sox and prior to that, Nos. 21 and 48 with the Tigers. Richard relayed: “My guess is he takes #21 since Todd Frazier won’t return. He could also take #22 if Dom Smith is traded.” I’m on board with 21 myself seeing as Porcello also replaces Frazier as the obligatory resident New Jersey guy, and I don’t want to trade Dom Smith. I almost wanna trade Alonso instead: Bigger reward, worse glove, even a little older, and I think it’s going to be hard to match the magnificence of his 2019 year (Alonso, not Smith). No way though will the Mets have the stones to try that.

In the outfield the Mets have added ex-Astros speedster Jake Marisnick, who looks as though he’ll take over Juan Lagares’ role as the right-handed hitting, glove-first, pinch-running, late-inning-defensing center fielder. Marisnick wore No. 6 in Houston; with Jeff McNeil occupying that now let’s pencil in Jake as No. 12.

A bunch of other guys have also arrived, re-upped and departed. Brad Brach is back (No. 29) after a handful of decent bullpen appearances last year. New to the 40-man roster and looking for uni assignments are pitchers Stephen Gonsalves, who wore No. 59 in a couple of appearances with the Twins two years ago; and minor-leaguers Jordan Humpheys and Thomas Szapucki; catcher Ali Sanchez and infield prospect Andres Gimenez.

We can also cut official ties with Lagares (12); Wheeler (45); Kevin Kaczmarski (16); Aaron Altherr (23); Drew Gagnon (47); Chris Flexen (64) and Chris Mazza (74). Another 40-man cut is coming when they add Porcello.

New coaches? We have them too. Jeremy Hefner (remember him?) wore the coachly No. 53 as a Met back in 2014; he could take that over from departing first-base coach Glenn Sherlock. We’ve also added Hensley Meulens as the bench coach. Meulens wore No. 31 (I think) in the same role for the Giants last year and so would need a new assignment, as will new first-base coach Tony DeFrancesco. The remarkable Phil Regan (No. 58) is out as pitching coach.

We’ll build a winter roster soon! Much still to do though.

 

 

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Better Jed Than Dead

Sorry for the dearth of updates! Was traveling for 2 weeks and lucky to have missed the Atlanta and Chicago series–not to mention the awful Player’s Weekend uniforms.

This Mets team is really driving you nuts, isn’t it? There’s a disease in the bullpen, the team itself is prone to sudden periodic shutdowns, so they are never safe from embarrassing themselves but at the same time the 2019 Mets are as accomplished as any group they’ve run out there for years. I suppose this is an indictment of their manager but it’s more than just that. And with Cano and Nimmo back … and now Jed Lowrie even (!!) they’re arguably better now than they’ve ever been, so I’m not ready to give up, even though I have twice already: Once back on July 24 after they’d slept-walked though a home loss to San Diego, falling to 46-55; and again the other night when Mickey, Sewald & Diaz teamed up to deliver that joke of a 9th inning.

Anyway, the Mets won 14 of 15 after my first surrender and they’re undefeated since the second.

You guys know this by now but Sam Haggerty is wearing 19. Haggerty came over in the Kevin Plawecki trade from Cleveland’s minor leagues. He’s a fleet switch hitter and the first 19 since Jay Bruce. Lowrie took over No. 4 from Wilmer Flores.

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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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