Category Archives: Mets

Jacob deGrom Provides Yet Another Example of a Professional Athlete Having No Idea What “Humbled” Means

A few weeks ago, Jacob deGrom captured the National League Cy Young Award.  As a Mets fan, I was very excited to have him win this well-deserved honor.  However, deGrom ruined a perfect moment with the following statement.

“I want to thank the Baseball Writers for this honor. I’m extremely humbled to win this award along with some other great former Mets such as Tom SeaverDwight Gooden and R.A. Dickey. I’d especially like to thank my teammates, coaching staff and my family.”

This statement shows that deGrom is just another in a long line of athletes who do not know the meaning of the word “humbled”, and frankly I am sick of it.  Tom Seaver is one of the greatest pitchers of all time; Dwight Gooden won a Cy Young Award in one of the greatest single seasons by any pitcher; and R.A. Dickey was beloved by Mets fans.  Thus, there are many words to describe how I would feel if I joined that esteemed list:

“Flattered”, “honored”, “amazing”, “The Man”, The Sh!t” are the first five things that come to mind.  “Humbled” falls at Spot #1,948,345 in the list of ways I would feel if I won the Cy Young Award and were put on that list of great pitchers.  The top synonyms for “humbled” are “defeated”, “beaten”, “crushed”, “humiliated”, “degraded”, and “shamed”.  If you win the Cy Young Award and feel any of those six emotions, please seek a mental-health professional help immediately because you should be feeling your best at a time of such high honor.

Unfortunately, deGrom is just one of many athletes who misuse the word “humbled”.  We hear it all the time.  NBA players are humbled when they are compared to Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, and quarterback are humbled when they are compared to Joe Montana and Tom Brady.  Stop it.  Some people absolutely need to be able to used the word “humbled”, and the word does not work if others are using the word inappropriately.  Here are two athletes who reserve the right to say “humbled”:

  • Matt Harvey: The guy was “The Dark Knight” and was being discussed along the lines of Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden. He was sleeping with supermodels and was the big man about town in New York City.  Then, a few minutes later; the guy was pitching to an ERA near 7, then pitching out of the bullpen; and then pitching in Cincinnati.  Three years ago, he thought he would someday earn the biggest contract in history for an MLB pitcher.  Now, he is hoping to earn a contract of any kind.  Now, that is humbling.
Image result for matt harvey bad
Image via The Boston Globe
  • Aaron Williams (7 Days in Hell): The guy was the top tennis player in the world. An announcer stated during Williams’s prime, “There is no one in the world who does not want to have sex with Aaron Williams.”  The guy was unbeatable on the court until an unfortunate day at Wimbledon.  On that day, he accidentally killed a spectator with a serve before shoving a member of the English royal family.  This started a downward spiral that ultimately ended up with Williams serving time in a Swedish prison.  Again, that is humbling.  (Bonus points: Andy Samberg’s character in Popstar debuted a song called “Humble” in which he appropriately yet ironically uses the word “humble”.)

Thus, Jacob deGrom, you have not been humbled.  If you go out there next year and pitch to an ERA of 5.00, you may say that you are humbled.  If you get knocked out of a game after allowing 10 runs in the first inning, you may say that you are humbled.  If your agent-turned-GM refuses you a long-term extension and compares you to 2017 Tyler Clippard, 2005 Carl Pavano, and 1998 Mel Rojas; you may say that you are humbled.  Lastly, if your wife leaves you for the bass player from Nickelback on the same day that your dog sets your house on fire, you may say that you are humbled.

However, 2018 National League Cy Young Award Winner, Jacob deGrom, as we stand here today, you have not been humbled.  Congratulations though.  It was an absolute delight to watch one of the most incredible pitching seasons I have ever seen.

For the First Time Ever, I am Excited About David Wright

David Wright has technically been a New York Met since 2004, but he has not played in a Major League game since May of 2016.  For many years, Wright was one of the better third basemen in Major League Baseball, but, ironically, I am currently the most excited I have ever been about David Wright.

On most days since April of 2015, I have assumed that David Wright’s MLB career was finished.  Wright found himself on the DL eight days into the Mets’ 2015 season.  During that DL stint, we learned that Wright had been diagnosed with spinal stenosis.  As the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes on July 31 and went on a tear in August, David Wright had become an afterthought…albeit an afterthought of “His career might be over.”  Then, lo and behold, Wright returned in late August and was the Mets’ regular third baseman en route to the World Series. 

Image result for david wright 2015
Image via Sporting News

However, after David hit .185 (10 for 54) in the 2015 postseason, I hoped he would retire.  I figured that he had a signature moment – a homerun in the first World Series game ever played at Citi Field – but that his body would not allow him to play Major League Baseball at a high level any longer.  Spinal stenosis is a debilitating condition, and I considered his on-field time from late August through November 1 of 2015 should be his swan song.  Had he retired after the 2015 season, the Mets would have ensured that there would be no awkward situation in which the Mets would have to decide between playing a broken-down David Wright or a better player at third base.  I did not want to see Wright end up in a position where he guts out 40 games per season at a .200 batting average, as fans clamor to see a journeyman .260 hitter start over him.  That would have been awkward for all of us, and I wanted no part of it.

Well, interestingly enough, Wright did not retire after 2015….but my fear did not play out either.  In 2016, Wright was hitting .226 with 7 homers when he went on the DL over Memorial Day Weekend.  Since then, he has never been on the active Mets roster.  As he has battled major neck and shoulder problems (on top of the spinal-stenosis back problems), he has become the ultimate afterthought in terms of the present-day Mets.  Until the past week or two, most of us have thought of David Wright’s Mets career in past tense.  Sure, in 2017, Jose Reyes (who served as the Mets’ primary third baseman for much of the season) said all the right things (no pun intended) about keeping the seat warm for Wright.  Those two have such a strong friendship, dating back to 2003-4, and any good friend believes the best in his or her friends.  However, in the case of Wright being the Mets’ everyday third baseman, it was wishful thinking on Reyes’s part….and every Mets fan knew it.

Fast forward to 2018 when the Mets signed Todd Frazier to the Mets’ third baseman, and nobody was worrying that the Mets had given away Wright’s position.  Wright was done.  His career was in the past.  We would occasionally hear about him having light workouts or having catches with people.  Woop-dee-doo.  I do not care about that stuff for guys on the 10-day DL; I did not care with Wright either.  That said, all of a sudden, a few weeks ago, Wright actually began playing in rehab games in Port St. Lucie.  I do not generally care about that stuff either, but, given Wright’s situation, I was interested.  Honestly, I had never thought he would make it back this far.

Now, as I sit here on September 13, I see a player who has not played in more than 2.5 seasons but has worked through incredibly painful and debilitating injuries to try to get back on the field.  How often do we see players, especially those in their mid-30s, return after that much time off?   I know that Wright is coming back for only one or a few games before retiring, but it remains quite a feat. It would have been very easy at any time since early 2015 for Wright to retire.  Sure, the money he is making is a good motivator to try to play again, but I do not care.  Especially since Wright went down “for good” in May 2016, he has to have known that; if he were ever to return to the Majors, he would be a shell of what he once was.  He has to have known that he has had very few MLB games left in him….but that does not matter to him.  Many players would not have fought back for more than 2.5 years like Wright has.  Wright just wants to play on an MLB field one more time, and he will have that opportunity on the Mets. That is a great story.

Image result for david wright rehab
Image via Newsday

The funny thing is that, until now, David Wright never truly excited me as a Met.  When Wright had his best seasons from 2005 through 2008, I was always more excited by Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado.  Wright was a great player, but I felt that those three were the true stars.  Unfortunately, as those players left, Wright stepped down from “Great” to “Very Good”.  During those “very good” years of 2009 through 2014, the Mets were not very good.  By 2015, when the Mets finally made it to a World Series with Wright, the stars had become the pitchers and Cespedes.  Therefore, for one reason or another, David Wright had never excited me….until now. 

Yes, David Wright is one of the best people in baseball.  He is a good-looking guy, and he has been a great face for the Mets’ franchise.  He is one of the few pro athletes who can legitimately be a role model for kids.  However, his dedication to work his way back to the majors makes him more of a role model than ever.  For the first time in David Wright’s career, I am excited to watch him play.  He might end up playing only three games or two games or one game.  That does not matter to me.  It will be very emotional to see him return to the Mets’ lineup, and I am excited to see #5 play third base for the Mets at least one more time.

The Benefits of Tanking: How deGrom and the Mets Should Learn from the Sixers, Angelina, and Octomom

As you likely know, Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is in the midst of an epic season in which he has a .97 WHIP, 1.85 ERA, and 173 strikeouts in 22 starts (one of which he left after one inning, due to rain/injury).  This has put him in a tight race with the Nationals’ Max Scherzer for the National League Cy Young Award.  Of course, I should also mention that deGrom has all of 5 wins (5-7 record) this season.  Thus, he is on pace to earn a total of 7 or 8 wins.  Even if one looks at the Mets’ team record in deGrom’s starts (which leads into my view on how MLB should change its wins stat), one will see a sub-.500 record for deGrom and the Mets.

Image result for degrom
Via CBSSports.com

As a result of all this, what course of events over the next eight weeks would be most optimal for both deGrom’s Cy Young candidacy and his legacy?  I believe the best result for him would be to endure more of the same stuff that has happened for the first four-plus months of this season: more and more outings in which deGrom earns a loss while pitching 7 or 8 innings of 1-run ball.  While that would be bad for the Mets overall, it would be the best thing that could happen to deGrom.  Hear me out here…

Max Scherzer has 15 wins this season and is a safe bet to reach 20.  If deGrom maintains his own current pace toward 7 or 8 wins, Scherzer will destroy deGrom in the “Wins” department.  This occurrence would prop up the vitality of the “Poor poor Jacob deGrom” storyline.  Cy Young voters would likely ignore the “Wins” totals altogether.  The stat is already of waning importance to voters, and voters would use the 12-13-win gap between Scherzer and deGrom to a) provide the ultimate proof that the “Wins” stat is silly and b) stamp deGrom’s 2018 season as the ultimate “dominant season on a terrible team”.  As long as deGrom maintains his strong ERA edge and beats or comes close to Scherzer in strikeouts, Jake should earn the Cy Young Award with the help of the two aforementioned thoughts of voters.

What happens though if the Mets somehow bring deGrom 8 wins between now and the end of the season?  I know that a team regularly starting Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, and Wilmer Flores is unlikely to win 8 games period the rest of the season, but let us play “What if?” anyway.  In this hypothetical situation, deGrom would end the season with 13 wins.  That sounds good at first thought, but deGrom would now have a win total that is closer to representative of his 2018 performance.  In actuality, he likely will have pitched well enough to have earned 20 wins with 26 of the 29 other offense/bullpen combinations in baseball.  That said, the deGrom pity party would nevertheless be much smaller if he has 13 wins, compared to if he has 7 or 8 wins.  The gap between 13 wins and Scherzer’s 20 wins is small enough to make the “Wins” mark a legitimate factor in the Cy Young voting.  At the same time, Scherzer will have earned 7 more than deGrom.  All of a sudden, many of deGrom’s pity votes will change to Scherzer votes as the “Wins” debate is ironically legitimized.

Image result for scherzer
Via BeyondtheBoxScore

Meanwhile, if deGrom ends this season with 7 or 8 wins, baseball fans and writers will remember his season forever.  Someday, when deGrom’s name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot, voters will be quick to add 12 wins to his career “Wins” total on the grounds of “He should have won 20 games in that legendary 2018 season”.  This would be true even though many modern-day starters have great seasons that result in only 13 to 16 wins, due to lack of bullpen/offensive support.  This is why, if deGrom actually makes it to 13 wins this year, future Hall of Fame voters will not “tack on any wins” when analyzing his career.  Therefore, deGrom would lose out on “7 wins” in the minds of many voters, who would likely be overly generous in pretending an 8-win season is a 20-win season.

Anyway, this way of thinking might seem crazy to you, but it demonstrates one of the basic principles of life in the 21st Century.  You are better off having extreme misery than minor inconvenience.  Extreme misery sells, while nobody cares about minor inconveniences.

For example, would you rather give birth to triplets or octuplets?  Well, first off, I give major props to the woman birthing either.  That said, it is a lot of money and work to raise triplets.  It should cost an exorbitant amount of money and work to raise octuplets, but you are also 90% likely to get your own TV show if you have octuplets.  That TV show will give you a whole lot of money which will allow you can make ends meet.  If you have 3 kids, nobody is giving you a TV show…or money.  You have to take care of those three kids on your own.  Therefore, it might indirectly become easier to raise octuplets than triplets.

Actually, this “extreme misery sells” concept is the whole premise of reality TV.  As another example, Angelina showed up on Jersey Shore: Family Reunion this season looking like a complete mess.  Not a big deal.  Not super-memorable.  However, she then had a “period-sh!t” on TV, and, all of a sudden, we were blessed with the most memorable moment of the season.  Being a garden-variety complete mess was a minor inconvenience for Angelina, but I would like to think that having the entire world remember her as being “period-sh!t girl” is extreme misery….except for the fact that she has stayed much more relevant, famous, and (therefore) rich because of it.  Extreme misery pays off.

Basically, this extreme misery is just “life tanking”.  For years, the 76ers knew that they were not good enough to compete for NBA Championships, so Philly was better off losing to earn better draft picks.  Now, the team is good and ready to compete for championships.  Was Angelina really that different from the Sixers?  Had Angelina been merely “normal-level trashy”, it would have been like having “only” triplets”, deGrom winning 13 games this year, or the Sixers churning out a few #8-seeds and non-lottery draft picks.  Instead, Angelina showed that she could “trust the process” by doing the “period sh!t”, something that 99% of women would not want to do in front of even one other human, much less the whole country.  The action was memorably disgusting but led her back to fame and money.  Angelina was not going to use success to earn fame or fortune, so she tanked her way to fame and fortune.

Therefore, if the Mets want to earn deGrom a Cy Young Award and augment his Hall of Fame credentials, they should put the worst-possible lineups on the field every time deGrom makes a start.  In other words, the Mets can continue doing EXACTLY what they have been doing for deGrom for four months, and deGrom will achieve his “extreme misery” and his Sixers/Angelina/Octomom payoff in the form of a Cy Young Award.  Keep trusting the process, Jake and the Mets.

Mickey Callaway is Going to Be One-and-Done

Like Michael Kay, I too do not like talking about whether or not people should be fired.  It is tough for someone to lose his/her livelihood, and I do not like to go there.  At the same time, I am OK discussing whether or not I think somebody WILL be fired. That brings us now to a discussion of the New York Mets’ manager.  At this time, I would be completely shocked if Mickey Callaway returns to manage the Mets in 2019.  I know that it seems harsh to fire a manager after only one year on the job, but there are three major reasons why I expect Callaway to be let go.

1)     He is not a good manager: Let us start with the most obvious reason.  The job of baseball manager has two main components – strategy and leadership.  It would appear that Callaway struggles with both.  In terms of strategy, there have been far too many times when Callaway has made indefensible decisions.  I am not talking about leaving a starting pitcher in for one batter too many or one batter too few; I am also not talking about using his closer when he should not or using a non-closer when he should use his closer.  We criticize all managers about these decisions any time said decisions do not work.

No, I am talking about the obvious mistakes.  For example, in June, the Mets faced the Pirates at Citi Field.  In the Top of the 9th with 2 outs; first base was open, and the Pirates’ closer Felipe Vazquez was on deck.  It should have been a no-brainer to intentionally walk the batter, so that Vazquez would have to hit.  The Pirates had a lead, and it was a given that they would leave Vazquez (who had entered in the 8th) in the game.  Most of the time, there are fair arguments on both sides in baseball, but there was no valid case to be made against the intentional walk here.  Unfortunately, Callaway chose not to walk the guy.  That was bad.

Throw in times when Callaway has botched double-switches and the time when the Mets batted out of order, and one can make a strong case that Callaway is bad with strategy.  (I will admit that the “batting out of order” thing is a bit of a Rorschach test.  Had a good manager like Joe Maddon or Bruce Bochy overseen this gaffe, we would have laughed but not blamed the manager.  However, because it happened to Callaway, we assume that it was Callaway’s fault.)

Image result for mets bat out of order

As for leadership, I think Callaway is in worse standing there than he is with strategy.  It is conceivable that Callaway can improve from a strategic standpoint.  After all, he was previously a pitching coach in the American League; thus, the bulk of National League strategy was irrelevant to him in years’ past.  Unfortunately, leadership is a more difficult ability to change – typically you are either a good leader, or you are not.

Let us be clear.  I very very rarely criticize a manager’s (coach’s) leadership in any sport.  I think it is laughable when fans say things like, “The manager/coach has clearly lost the clubhouse/locker room”….as if we have any idea what is going on in those rooms.  These critics are the people who see a physical error and blame the manager.  Seriously, when the Yankees were 5-5 in April, I heard a guy call WFAN and claim that Aaron Boone was a bad manager because someone on the Yankees (I think it was Gregorious, but I am not certain) had made an error.  If I ever get to the point where I blame individual physical errors on the manager, please euthanize me.

However, it is reasonable both to blame managers for players’ mental errors and to believe a players-turned-announcer’s analysis that a manager has “lost the team”.  This is where Callaway finds himself in deep trouble.  I have never heard the Mets’ TV announcers – Gary, Keith, and Ron – show the same amount of disdain for a manager that they do for Mickey Callaway.  The disdain is never directly stated, but it is obvious.  A textbook example came during Wednesday’s 5-3 Mets loss in D.C.  Jose Bautista swung and missed for Strike Three, and the ball bounced to the backstop.  Bautista did not run and was called out.  Gary Cohen voiced his displeasure for Bautista’s stationary response, and Darling responded by saying that he was not surprised.  Darling explained that the Mets have not run out dropped third strikes all year long.  During Cohen’s and Darling’s dialogue, the disdain was obvious by the tones of their voices.

Image result for mets announcers in booth

Similarly, a few weeks ago, Keith Hernandez appeared on Mike Francesa’s show.  Francesa asked Keith if he thought Callaway was a good manager, and, in standard Francesa form, the question was long-winded and insinuated Francesa’s thoughts that Callaway was overmatched (either leadership-wise or strategically).  Keith responded with only “I expect Mickey to be the Mets’ manager next year.”  It was the ultimate case of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  A damning comment from Keith….and yes, one that runs contrary to the basic premise of this article.

Anyway, the Mets have made many mental errors this year, such as Wilmer Flores not throwing home in Wednesday’s eighth inning.  Unlike with physical errors, a mental mistake is at least partially the manager’s fault.  A manager should do his best to ensure that all players know what to do in all situations.  Of course, players can make mental errors even if the manager has adequately prepared them to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, there have been too many mental errors for this year’s Mets for one not to wonder if the manager is partially to blame.  There have also been too many times when the Mets do not hustle.  Again, for that, it is fair to look toward the manager.

Does this mean that Callaway has lost the clubhouse?  On my own, I cannot say that.  However, there have been enough allusions from Gary, Keith, Ron, and even Nelson Figueroa (SNY Studio) that Callaway has no control over the team.  3 of those 4 were Major Leaguers, and the other has been around Mets teams for 30 years.  When they say that Callaway has “lost the team”, I believe them.

2)     The Mets need a scapegoat for this awful season.  If a team has an unexpectedly terrible season, there usually needs to be a scapegoat.  As the old adage goes, you cannot fire the whole team, but you can fire the manager.  Note that I wrote “unexpectedly” in the first sentence of this part.  The Mets lost 92 games last year, which is terrible.  When a team has a terrible season, it is usually reasonable to expect the next season to be terrible as well.  Fairly or not, though, most people viewed the 2018 Mets differently.

While people were not readily predicting the 2018 Mets to be a playoff team, most people assumed that 2017 would prove to be an aberration because Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets’ starting-pitching staff minus Jacob deGrom spent most of 2017 on the disabled list.  Therefore, it seemed reasonable that the 2018 Mets would be at least a .500 team and would be in the running for the second Wild Card.  Unfortunately for Callaway, Cespedes will end up spending most of 2018 on the DL as well, and the stats since the start of 2015 show that the Mets are much much better with Cespedes than without him.  At the same time, deGrom, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler have essentially been healthy all year to this point.  Noah Syndergaard has been healthy for 2 of the 4 months.  Seth Lugo has been healthy as well, and he made a few starts early in the season before moving effectively to the bullpen.

In a way, Callaway has actually been hurt by the fact that the starting pitching has done well this year.  We all hoped that the Mets’ pitchers would be better and healthier this year than last year, and that has been the case.  Therefore, the fact that this pitching success has led the Mets to a 44-61 record ends up making it worse on Callaway than if the pitchers had all been terrible.  Had the pitchers been terrible and/or hurt, we would likely be blaming the pitchers (who were terrible and/or hurt last year, pre-Callaway).

Many modern “Moneyball” people say that a manager does not matter.  I am a moderate in this debate.  When a team is 44-61 as the Mets are, not even Gil Hodges nor Tony LaRussa would not have made the team a playoff team.  The Mets are terrible primarily because they have bad players – especially position players.  That said, I think that the difference between a good manager and a bad manager is somewhere between 6 and 10 wins over a full season.  While any manager can and should rely primarily on all available statistics to guide his decisions, a good manager is also able to take advantage of knowledge like: which reliever says he has “good stuff” today, which batter had great batting practice today, which normally-good player is in a funk today because of a fight with his girlfriend, which player is feeling sick today, etc.  A good manager rarely loses games because his players make mental errors or do not hustle.  A good manager’s tough decisions end up correct more often than not.

It would seem that none of the previous paragraph applies to Callaway.  Thus, given that we are 2/3 of the way through the season, maybe the Mets would have 6 more wins with a better manager.  That would mean a 50-55 record, which is actually a world of difference from 44-61.  It would give the Mets a chance to finish over .500.  More importantly, it would make the Mets feel that they are on the way back after the disastrous 70-92 2017 season.

I would love for the Mets to sign Manny Machado next year, but I know it is not happening.  The Wilpons can try to sign several players who will make the Mets much better in 2018, or they can bring in a new manager.  If the Wilpons do the latter, they can preach a change of culture, accountability, etc.  Which option is better?  I would absolutely prefer better players, because that can make more than 6 to 10 wins worth of difference.  However, which is cheaper?  Bringing in a new manager.  That is the biggest reason why I expect a new manager in 2018.

3)     The Mets wreck their managers by not letting them appear on WFAN or ESPN Radio.  This needs to be said.  Most Mets fans think of Mickey Callaway as a buffoon, partially because we never get to hear our trusted sports-radio hosts – Francesa, Kay, LaGreca, Evan Roberts, Boomer, etc. – interview the guy.  The Mets do not let their personnel speak on radio stations other than 710 WOR, and, in so doing, they set up their managers for failure.  If we were able to hear Callaway be interviewed on a weekly basis, we would hear his answers to some of our questions.  Oftentimes, we think people are misguided until we hear them provide their actual rationales.  Unfortunately, we do not get this air time with Callaway.  All we get is plenty of hosts deservedly ridiculing him for saying, “We are going to love our players…”.  This is why Callaway could truly benefit from first-hand WFAN/ESPN Radio time.

 Image result for wfan radio

OK, maybe Callaway would not give us much more in hypothetical WFAN/ESPN interviews than he gives us in his postgame press conferences, but there is a multiplier effect in play.  Radio hosts are nicer when discussing people who are guests on the show than when discussing people who are not.  It is human nature.  This does not mean that the radio hosts have not spoken ill of Joe Girardi nor Aaron Boone at times.  However, hosts will give those guys the benefit of the doubt, because they have working relationships that lead the hosts to assume the best from the managers.  When have you heard any sports-radio personality give Callaway the benefit of the doubt?  It never happens, because the hosts do not have relationships with the guy.  This hurts Callaway.  There is never any positivity about Mickey Callaway when it comes to sports radio, and that influences fans’ perceptions.  The Mets ensure that their managers receive primarily negative radio coverage.  Not only is this bad for Callaway, but it will also hurt his replacement as Mets manager in 2019.

I know that Keith expects Callaway to be back next year, but I think this post is way too long for that to be the case.

A Less Familiar View on Familia

On Saturday, the Mets traded closer Jeurys Familia to the Oakland Athletics.  As we Mets fans close the book on the Familia era, I would like to make the case that he was a much better postseason pitcher the average Mets fan thinks he was.

Most often, when analyzing how good a player/pitcher somebody is/was, it is valid to look at the player’s career cumulative statistics.  While stats never tell the full picture, a large enough sample size of statistics does not lie either.  That said, for Jeurys Familia, we clearly do not have a large enough sample size to judge his postseason career on his cumulative save totals.  Familia is 5 for 8 in postseason save chances.  Thus, he has three career blown saves in the postseason.  Additionally, those three blown saves came in the World Series; thus, four of his past five postseason appearances yielded three blown saves (all in the World Series) and a loss in the 2016 Wild Card game.

Image result for familia blown save world series
Photo via Amazin’ Avenue

However, the guy has all of 13 career playoff appearances.  With a number that small, it is more logical to examine his performance on a game-by-game basis than a cumulative basis.  At the same time, it is worth noting that his playoff ERA is 2.30, and his playoff WHIP is an incredible .638!  Those two numbers should give you pause when deriding the guy’s playoff career.  More importantly, let us examine his 13 playoff outings:

  • 2015 NLDS Game 1 at Los Angeles: Familia pitches 1.1 innings with and retires all four batters he faces. He enters a 3-1 game in the 8th with two outs and a runner on base.  At Dodger Stadium in this instance, many pitchers might struggle, but Familia does not.  Familia is unfazed by the pressure and dominates.
  • 2015 NLDS Game 3 vs. Los Angeles: Familia retires all 3 batters he faces in the 9th The inning begins with the Mets leading 13-4.  After Erik Goeddel allows the first four batters to reach base, Familia comes on to stop the bleeding and preserve a 13-7 win.  This is a low-pressure situation, but he is perfect nonetheless.
  • 2015 NLDS Game 4 vs. Los Angeles: Familia pitches a perfect Top of the 9th to keep the Dodgers’ lead at 3-1. The Mets lose the game, but Familia remains perfect for his postseason career.
  • 2015 NLDS Game 5 at Los Angeles: If you are a real Mets fan, you think after this game, “Oh my God, we might have our Mariano.” It is a winner-take-all game, and Familia pitches perfect 8th and 9th innings at Dodger Stadium with the Mets clinging to a 3-2 lead in the game.  If Armando Benitez, John Franco, Braden Looper, Billy Wagner, or Francisco Rodriguez is the Mets’ pitcher this night; I think the Mets lose the game.  Fortunately, Familia has ice water in his veins and finishes off one gem of a pitching performance for the Mets (6 gutty innings from Jacob deGrom and a solid relief inning from Noah Syndergaard).
  • 2015 NLCS Game 1 vs. Chicago: Ho-hum: Familia records his third postseason save of more than one inning (1.1). This time, he does allow a hit, but he nevertheless preserves a 4-2 win for the Mets and Matt Harvey, who pitched 7.2 innings.  (Side note: With all of the ridiculously short starting pitchers’ outings in the 2016 and 2017 postseasons, it is refreshing to remember that the Mets’ starters routinely pitched at least 6 innings and often more during the 2015 playoffs.)
  • 2015 NLCS Game 2 vs. Chicago: Ho-hum again: Familia records his first easy (in my opinion) save of the postseason. He allows 1 hit over 1 inning in preserving a 4-1 Mets win.  Even Trevor Hoffman probably could have converted this save.
  • 2015 NLCS Game 3 at Chicago: Another easy one: Familia pitches a perfect ninth to finish off a 5-2 Mets win.
  • 2015 NLCS Game 5 at Chicago: Familia earns the right to be on the mound as the Mets clinch their first pennant in 15 years. He pitches a scoreless 9th and walks one batter.  The Mets win 8-3.

 

Therefore, as we presently stand, Familia has put together 8 scoreless appearances with only 3 baserunners allowed.  He is 5-for-5 in save opportunities, with 3 of those saves being more than one inning long.  Anyway, back to the log.

  • 2015 World Series Game 1 at Kansas City: Familia enters in the 8th inning with the tying run on base. Familia records the last out of the inning but allows a game-tying solo homer to Alex Gordon in the 9th  Thus, Familia’s line is 1.1 innings, 1 ER, 1 baserunner (the homer), 1 blown save.  It is the first blemish on Familia’s postseason record.  The Mets lose the game in 14 innings.
  • 2015 World Series Game 3 vs. Kansas City: Familia pitches a perfect 9th to preserve a 9-3 Mets win and to give the Mets their first win of the World Series. In hindsight, people criticize manager Terry Collins for using Familia with a 6-run lead.  On one hand, Collins used Familia with a bigger lead in Game 3 of the NLDS, and Familia looked no worse for wear in Games 4 and 5 of that series.  On the other hand, this World Series appearance represents Familia’s 10th postseason appearance in three weeks.  Thus, fatigue is likely becoming a bigger factor.  How does Familia respond going forward?…
  • 2015 World Series Game 4 vs. Kansas City: Familia pitches 2/3 of an inning (8th inning), allowing an unearned run and two hits. This is where the raw stats do not tell the story.  Mets fans know the story.  Familia enters in the Top of the 8th with the Mets clinging to a 1-run lead.  There are runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out.  Eric Hosmer hits a ground ball to second baseman Daniel Murphy.  At worst, this should be a 4-3 ground out that puts runners at second and third with 2 outs.  Instead, Murphy makes an error, allowing the tying run to score.  Somehow, this alone already counts as a blown save for Familia.  It is ridiculous that baseball scoring credits the run to the previous pitcher but the blown save to Familia, but I digress. There are now runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out and a tie score.  Familia allows two hits, and the two runners ultimately score (second being an unearned run charged to Familia).  Mets lose 5-3.

 

Sure, Murphy’s error is not solely responsible for Familia’s two hits allowed.  That said, Familia enters the game and induces the groundball he needed.  Had there then instead been 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs and the Mets up by 1, things might go differently than with first and third, 1 out, and a tie game.

  • 2015 World Series Game 5 vs. Kansas City: It is silly that Familia was given a blown save in Game 4 for allowing the inherited runner to score on Murphy’s error. It is criminal that Familia is given a blown save in the upcoming scenario.  Mets fans know this one very, very well.  Familia relieves Matt Harvey with the tying run on second and nobody out in the Top of the 9th.  Familia induces consecutive groundouts.  The first moves Eric Hosmer from second to third.  The second groundout is 5-3, with David Wright throwing the ball over to Lucas Duda.  Of course, Hosmer ends up following Wright and scoring the tying run on the play.  Familia then induces a third-consecutive groundout.
Image result for familia blown save world series
Photo via Slate.com

Therefore, Jeurys Familia allows three consecutive groundouts and earns a blown save.  Baseball’s rules are ridiculous.  Anyway, as we exit the 2015 postseason, we should remember Familia as being a great postseason pitcher.  Yes, he technically blew three saves, but two were fully or partially because of errors…and one was because baseball’s “blown save” crediting is silly.  In truth; over 12 playoff appearances, Alex Gordon’s Game 1 (WS) homer and the two KC hits after Murphy’s error opened the door were the only negatives on the guy’s record.  Familia had a stellar postseason and was instrumental in the Mets making it to the World Series.

However, after Familia’s unlucky-13th postseason appearance, many Mets fans retroactively decide that Familia is a bad postseason pitcher.  Of course, in this last appearance, Familia enters a scoreless game in the 9th inning and allows two baserunners before allowing Conor Gillaspie’s game-winning homer.  This is easily Familia’s worst postseason moment.  Unfortunately, it is his last Mets postseason moment, but let us not forget that the guy was actually a fantastic postseason pitcher for most of his Mets career.

Three Silver Linings to Rooting for a Team as Terrible as the 2018 Mets

The New York Mets are a terrible, terrible baseball team.  After starting the 2018 season 11-1, the Mets have gone 20-44.  If you are wondering 20-44 equates to a .3125 winning percentage.  The Royals (.308) and Orioles (.299) are the only teams with worse winning percentages for this full season, but the Mets could easily drop below those two teams within the next day or two.  Are the Mets as bad as those two teams?  Absolutely.

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Photo via northjersey.com

If one has watched baseball for any considerable portion of his/her life, that person can tell pretty easily how good a team is.  I have watched the Mets regularly since 1990, so I can vouch for the fact that this team is as awful as its record indicates.  What are the main indicators that jump out at me in terms of the Mets being terrible?

1)     Jason Vargas got hurt before Sunday’s start, and the Mets decided that their minor leagues are so barren that they were better off starting reliever Jerry Blevins.  This required patching together 9 (actually 11) innings of bullpen innings from a bullpen with maybe 3 legitimate Major League relievers.

2)     Jason Vargas has been so bad that the afore-mentioned bullpen option worked out better than a typical Vargas start.  Speaking of which, please disregard this.

3)     Continuing with the “speaking of which…”, Jose Reyes has a batting average of .175 and an OPS of .507 yet remains on this team.

4)     Mickey Callaway has decided to bench prospect Amed Rosario for several games in a row so that Reyes can start.  Seriously.

5)     Since 2015, the Mets’ offense has dominated with Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup and been terrible with him out of the lineup.  Cespedes has played only 37 games this year.

6)     If the Yankees had kept Todd Frazier, he would be a bench player this year.  On the Mets, he hits in the #2, #3, and #4 spots.

7)     The first-place Atlanta Braves released both Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Bautista over the past year.  Both of these people have had stretches of regular starts for the Mets.

8)     Kevin Plawecki has hit cleanup.

9)     Mickey Callaway said on Sunday that the Mets need to “sync up” the performance between their position players, starting pitchers, and bullpen.  That is the baseball equivalent of Ben McAdoo’s “complementary football”.  That ended up well.

10)  Most importantly, Jacob deGrom has an ERA of 1.69, a WHIP of 1.01, 16 starts, and a whopping five wins.

Image result for jacob degrom
Photo via sbnation.com

What a disaster.  For the second-consecutive season, the Mets enter summer completely out of the playoff race.  Obviously, this is a major disappointment for a big-time Mets fan like myself.  Summer is much better for a baseball fan when that fan is excited to watch his/her team every night.  I am not excited to watch the train wreck in Flushing.  Summer is much better when a fan can start to build excitement for a pennant race, when the fan can start to scoreboard-watch the team’s primary standings opponents, and when the fan can dream of thrilling October baseball.  Summer is much better when the fan can enjoy the highs of important wins and agonize over important losses.  I know it is weird for me to speak well of agony, but one does need to experience joy in order for him/her to fall into agony.  Only a complete masochist agonizes every time a terrible team loses.  Yes, some self-loathing Mets fans fall into this category, but thankfully I do not.

With all that said, there are three silver linings to rooting for a terrible team.

1)     I can enjoy the wins, but I never feel the agony!  Sure, I do not become too elated when a 31-45 Mets team wins a game, but I do feel at least a modicum of joy.  On the flip side, I do not feel any negative emotion when the Mets lose.  I felt negative emotion in April and May when the Mets descended from 11-1 to oblivion, but I am now far too deep into the learned-helplessness phase.  I expect the Mets to lose every game.  Plus, as I mentioned last year, I know that I am not going to loyally watch a team this bad once NFL season begins.  I have no false aspirations of the Mets making their way toward a pennant race or (Good lord) playoff baseball.  Therefore, I have nothing to lose right now as a fan.  For example, I attended Sunday’s surprisingly exciting 8-7 Mets’ loss to the Dodgers (the Vargas/Blevins game).  I was legitimately thrilled when Kevin Plawecki hit a game-tying three-run homer in the 8th inning.  However, when Justin Turner hit a go-ahead Los Angeles homer in the 11th inning, I matter-of-factly felt like the game was over.  I knew it would shortly be time for us to go home, but I was not upset.  How could I be upset about a team losing its 23rd game in 29?  It would be like being upset that Roadrunner evaded Wile E. Coyote yet again.

2)     I have zero time commitment to the team.  Again, it is disappointing not to have the thrill of a good baseball team to watch this summer.  At the same time, this truth means that I do not feel bad when I have to miss a game.  In 2015 and 2016, I was upset whenever I could not watch a game.  This year could not be any different.  Again, I know that I will lose touch with the team in September.  Therefore, if I miss more games in July and August, who cares?  It is also worth noting that my wife and I will be taking two honeymoons this summer – one in July and one in August.  If the Mets were halfway decent, I would currently be going to great lengths to make sure I can watch as many Mets games as possible on those trips.  Fortunately though, I am perfectly content to avoid going to those great lengths for this terrible Mets edition.  Therefore, from the “You don’t want to be bad husband on your honeymoon” department, thank God the Mets are awful.

3)     It is humorous.  If the 2015 or 2016 Mets chose not to use any starting pitchers in a game, I would have been angry.  When the 2018 Mets did it, I laughed.  Honestly, when I read 9 of the 10 things listed above, I laugh.  Only deGrom’s tough luck does not make me laugh.  He is one of the best pitchers of his generation, but he is toiling on a terrible team.  Everything else though makes me laugh.  The Mets daily trot out a lineup that is worse than the Yankees’ AAA lineup.  When something is this big a disaster, the only healthy thing one can do is laugh about it.

 

Photo via NY Post

 

Anyway, I know that it has been a difficult two seasons for Mets fans.  I hope that all of you Mets fans out there can use these three silver linings to get through the 2018 Mets season as I have and will continue to do.

Mickey Callaway Cannot Fix a Flawed Team

During Spring Training, Mets manager Mickey Callaway earned great praise for the positive energy he had brought to Spring Training.  I also read of players complimenting the fact that all of the Spring Training drills had purposes, as if Terry Collins had always been orchestrating a bunch of useless drills in his Spring Training workouts.  That seemed like a bogus claim to me, but it was not the silliest thing that I heard this spring.  To the contrary, the silliest thing I heard was when Callaway mentioned that he wanted Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, and Zack Wheeler to pitch 4 innings per start.  At the time, Callaway also discussed having relievers be able to pitch multiple innings to make up for those short starts. While the idea of having relievers pitch multiple innings was and is a good one, the idea that a bullpen could collectively handle such a massive workload was and is not.  Nevertheless, in the spring; reporters, players, and some Mets fans thought that all of Callaway’s ideas were wonderful.  I was not one of these people; I thought Callaway’s idea to use starting pitchers for so few innings was a recipe for disaster.

In fact, when I heard all of the premature praise for Mickey Callaway, it reminded me of the scene in Step Brothers in which Seth Rogen’s character compliments Dale and Brennan for showing up for a physical-education job interview in tuxedos.   “It’s ironic.  I get it.”  Anyway, why did the Callaway situation remind me of this scene?  First off, most things in life remind me of Step Brothers.  Secondly, I knew that there was no way that the bullpen strategy could work over a 162-game season.  Thus, applauding the strategy in March was like Rogen applauding the tuxedos.  I figured that, when the strategy ultimately blows up, and Callaway’s over-the-top positivity for a bad team quickly runs stale; all of his one-time sycophants would say, “OK, now the 4-inning starts (aka the “tuxes”) seem kinda f$%#ed up”.  If this analogy has gone over your head, please go watch Step Brothers immediately.  Then it will all make sense, and the movie is one of the funniest movies of all time.  You are welcome.

Image result for step brothers tuxedo gif

Anyway, enough with the analogy.  I do give Mickey Callaway credit for the idea of pitching relievers for multiple innings.  I have been preaching this idea since 1998 when I first wrote to The Record, stating that, if Turk Wendell has pitched a good 8th inning, he should be allowed to pitch the 9th.  That part of Callaway’s logic makes perfect sense.  We know that Callaway rightfully includes warm-up pitches in his consideration for how much work a pitcher has received.  We know that he hates “dry humping”, and, by that logic, it is more efficient to have a pitcher throw 70 innings in 35 appearances than 70 innings in 70 appearances.  The latter means 35 more games in which the pitcher has to throw several warm-up pitches in the bullpen.  I agree with Callaway on all fronts here.  Furthermore, some days a pitcher “has it”.  Some days a pitcher does not.  Therefore, I have never liked taking out a pitcher who clearly “has it”.  If you go through 6 or 7 pitchers in a game, the law of averages says that at least one (and likely more) of those pitchers will not “have it” that day.  Therefore, you might as well stick with the guy who has been effective in that game.

That all said, the benefits of this strategy go out the window when you have three pitchers who rarely make it past four innings.  I should add that some of the unwarranted preseason praise for Callaway intimated that Callaway would be able to fix Matt Harvey.  That clearly proved not to be the case.  Meanwhile, I am not going to blame Jason Vargas’s horrific performances on Callaway, but the fact remains that we are stuck with three Mets pitchers who routinely exit after 4 or maybe 5 innings.  That was Callaway’s plan anyway, and it does not work.  You cannot sustain a bullpen under those circumstances.

It does not matter if you are using relievers for an inning apiece or multiple innings apiece; if you need five innings of relief three out of every five nights, you will destroy your bullpen.  If we assume that Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard give a combined 13 innings per rotation, the Mets need 20 bullpen innings per rotation, and that equates to roughly 650 bullpen innings per season.  Keep in mind that a dependable workhorse reliever is good for 80 innings per season.  The standard modern workhorse, in that case, would make 80 appearances and average one inning per appearance.  Fortunately, Callaway has allowed pitchers to make multiple-inning appearances.  However, if a pitcher like Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman pitches 2 or 3 innings in a relief effort, he should not be pitching in the next two games or really the next three games.  THAT is how you maximize the effectiveness of a relief pitcher.  It is not only the longer outings but it is also the longer rest.  Ideally, a team should be able to use two relievers per game.  This would keep all relievers fresh, as they would regularly get two or three days off in a row.

The problem is that this idea would only work well in an era in which starting pitchers routinely pitch seven innings.  Such an era would require only 320 relief innings per season.  If a team has 4 good relievers, the team can satisfy the bulk of those 320 innings with only those four relievers.  Plus, if those relievers could make 2-inning appearances with some regularity, these relievers would receive enough rest to stay effective.

Image result for mets bullpen

On the other hand, the Mets need the afore-mentioned 650 bullpen innings.  Yikes!  Is the Mets’ bullpen terrible?  No.  It has four dependable relievers – Jeurys Familia, Lugo, Gsellman, and the injured Anthony Swarzak.  How many teams have more than four dependable relievers?  2?  3?  Many teams would be happy to have four dependable relievers.  However, when your team’s strategy is to have 650 bullpen innings (as I have projected for the Mets), and you have only four dependable relievers (who we will generously say are good for 80 innings apiece); you are stuck with the unenviable choice either a) coaxing 330 innings from the other relief pitchers, who are generally terrible, b) completely overworking the good relievers to the point where they are injured or no longer dependable, or c) both.  Actually, who am I kidding?  The only answer is “c”.  This is the sole logical result, given that teams do try to use the bad relievers; the bad relievers get bombed; and the teams must then use the good relievers.

Case in point: Seth Lugo on Memorial Day.  This guy has dominated all year, but he has been overused.  Callaway wanted Lugo to get a 2-inning save in the first game of a doubleheader, so that he could save Familia for the nightcap.  I do not think it is bad strategy, but it would have been much better strategy if Lugo had not pitched so many innings already.  Lugo has pitched 32.2 innings, and Gsellman has pitched 33.3.  Lugo’s 20 appearances are not bad for a 51-game stretch, but he, like Gsellman (25 appearances), is on pace to pitch more than 100 innings, an untenable total for a reliever.  (I would still love to swap Lugo and Wheeler; given that Lugo has been an effective starter and that Wheeler has an innings’ limit.)  Unfortunately, the Mets are burning out their best relief pitchers.

The funny thing is: this same exact issue happened for the Mets last year.  In fact, I wrote an article about how the Mets’ starting pitching was atrocious and responsible for the bad bullpen performance.  The Mets’ bullpen performed well at the beginning of last season too, but those relievers became overtaxed and lost effectiveness.

The truth is that there are only two ways for a team to be successful while having as many 4-5-inning starts as the Mets do:

  • The team must have at least 6 good relief pitchers.
  • The team must have fantastic position players.

 

It is great to have six good relief pitchers, because that would cover 480 of the 630 relief innings.  That is a workable ratio.  However, let’s be honest.  How many teams have 6 good relief pitchers?  The Yankees did last year, and so did the 2006 Mets (Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano, Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver); but it is a huge rarity.  No, the only way to expect success with such undependable starting pitching is to have a dynamite offense, and the Mets do not have that.   The Mets have a bunch of old guys who would be on the benches of most other teams, some younger guys who are currently no better than #7 or #8 hitters, and one phenomenal hitter who can never stay healthy.  Mickey Callaway cannot fix any of these problems, but he cannot fix the pitching problems any better than Terry Collins could.  That is why the preseason praise for Callaway seems as f$#@ed up as the tuxes.  I do not think he is a bad manager, but he does not have the ability to fix the major problems with the Mets’ roster.