Monday, May 06, 2024

Belaboring A Point

In the last five games, Francisco Lindor has put up a slash line of .278/.278/.611 with a homer and 8 RBI.

The Mets went 1-4 in those games, and the 1 was a direct result of Lindor's walk off hit against the Cubs.

It goes to show how hard it is to carry a team like the 2024 Mets. It's a point that I'm probably going to belabor from now until they're eliminated, but the margin of error for this team is razor thin. Even in a stretch where Lindor is hot, that only gets them so far, especially if a normally dependable bullpen goes south. And with the general state of the starting pitching not going deep into games, the bullpen will go south.

Now, if Edwin Diaz is one of those folks that goes south, as he did on Sunday against Randy Arozarena with a strike to go to salvage the last game of the Rays series, then all bets are off and you might as well pick a WNBA team to follow this summer if you don't already. If 2019 Edwin Diaz has kidnapped 2022 Edwin Diaz and tied him up in a closet with his fingertips inches away from his utility belt, then we have no hope anyway.

I will say that to expect 2022 Edwin to magically pick up where he left off at the 2023 WBC is a little unfair when you factor in an entire season off, and the inconsistent work he's gotten in 2024 because there just aren't enough save opportunities or even important hold opportunities to go around. So while I think there's reason for concern, it's not time to push the panic button just yet on him. But this team isn't built to survive a slumping bullpen. Most teams aren't, but certainly not a team that's slightly above league average in runs per game.



***

I will say that the start on Saturday by Christian Scott is a buoy to my hopes. The first three batters of his major league career produced one run and no outs. Scott responded by retiring 20 of his next 23. It could be equal parts composure and not having the most raucous home crowd rattling you (it was 50/50 at best in St. Petersburg), but the Trop is still a major league stadium, and he had never pitched in one before . To do what he did takes a certain something or somethings that not everyone has right away.

The first thing that struck me was the number 45 and the Zack Wheeler type delivery. It made me sad, but as long as Jeff Wilpon is nowhere near this team, maybe we could do right by this 45 one day.

The second thing that struck me was that he had a plan. Adam Wainwright (yeah, THAT Adam Wainwright) laid it out perfectly when he announced the game on FOX. Scott was filling up the strike zone and Wainwright said that he needed to start throwing the sweeper out of the zone. It took Scott until the second time through the order to start doing that. Executing a plan is easy when you have the stuff to be able to do it, but not many pitchers have the composure to put their stuff to the best possible use in their first major league start. This kid did it.

Speking of composure, there wsa a point late in hsi start where a call went against him ... a check swing or something ... and Scott giggled. Some pitchers would hve been flustered. But nothing seems to phase this kid. Incredible for his first major league start. We'll see what happens to him when he has to pitch in Philly or Dodger Stadium or Atlanta, but his mental make up is encouraging.

There's also the matter of how he can actually help the team, which is simple if he keeps pitching into the 7th inning consistently. There will be bumps in the road, for sure. Doc Halladay pitched a one-hitter in his first ever start, and HE went down to the minors to fix himself. So there's going to be that Terry Collins/Jacob deGrom moment coming, whether it be on camera or not. But he seems to have that "ice in his veins" trait that will get him through those moments.

So far so good for Christian Scott. But so far not so good for the Mets, who dropped four gut punch games in the span of a week while only winning one such game. Not a good ratio for a team that lives on the fringes. Thankfully, there is plenty of time to deliver more gut punches than they take. We'll see.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

There's No Fast Forwarding Through The Fringes

My buddy Mark Rosenmen of Kiners Korner likes to say it all the time: "You can't binge watch a baseball season." Nowhere is that true more than 2024.

The 2024 Mets have lots of .500 energy. Considering how we were prepped for this season by the owner nad by the GM by saying that this was going to be a competitive yet reset year, having .500 energy isn't a bad thing. Hell, it's a great thing after starting the season 0-5 and getting no-hit by a Tigers misfit for 7 innings in Game 6. It's a great thing after losing Kodai Senga before the season, Tylor Megill to start the season, and Brooks Raley and Drew Smith after the bullpen had established themselves early in the season as  the statistical best in the league after 2-3 weeks.

But the team is still a roller coaster that can't be binge watched or figured out. 0-5 followed by 12-3 followed by 1-5 before Sunday's wild walk off win against the Cardinals, which ended in a Harrison Bader RBi single a strike away from losing, and Mark Vientos' walk off two run dinger to avoid a sweep by the previously struggling Cardinals. We as Met fans are going to have to ride this out and see where it goes instead of doing what we usually do and call for everyone to be fired or traded tomorrow. Most seasons, that works. We can save it for next year after we sign Juan Soto (yes, I'm trying to speak it into existence.)

This season? This is an 81-81 team that has a margin of error about three games each way. Three games the wrong way is a disappointment at 78-84, while three games the right way and you're looking at a possible playoff team with the expansion of Rob Manfred's revenue stream playoff teams to 12. With this roster not being built so top heavy in the rotation as in seasons past, it heightens the importance of the players on the fringes.

Harrison Bader watching the pitch he put into orbit against the Pirates on April 17th.

Look, we know that the Francisco Lindors and the Pete Alonsos have to perform.But having other stars like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander for 15 minutes meant that you could survive slumps by your offensive stars (which happens.) Not having them? Now you have to win every close game you're in ... certainly every extra inning home game you find yourself in. That means that the players on the fringes have to perform well, and that'll be the first mile marker that David Stearns will be judged on. The results so far has been as mixed as the W-L record.

Some play bigger roles than others. Luis Severino was a flier. But with Senga hurt, he's basically their ace now. He started out dicey but has an ERA under three. Harrison Bader was unimpressive during that five game losing streak to start the season, but since then has been an important player (and most importantly, healthy.) Sean Manaea has been hit around lately but has had his moments (and I think he'll be solid this season.) Jorge Lopez scared the hell out of me but props to him because his ERA is under two. Tyrone Taylor has been a revelation as the fourth outfielder. J.D. Martinez has started out well in a small sample size.

But there has been results the other way too. I don't know how a ground ball pitcher like Adrian Houser can leave so many pitches up like he's Pedro Martinez. Joey Wendle wasn't brought here for much, and has been short of even modest expectations. Not to mention the millions of relief pitchers the Mets have already employed. They survived two stops on the Michael Tonkin Eras tour. Yohan Ramirez was the focal point of a blood war, and now he's an Oriole and it isn't even May yet. We've said Hello, Goodbye to guys like Cole Sulser, Dedniel Nunez, Grant Hartwig and Tyler Jay. (Turn your head, don't look back.) Tomas Nido, Josh Walker and Sean Reid-Foley have had recurring roles like they're Jason Evers playing 8 different characters in Mannix. 

But they all have to be ready this season, along with guys like Jose Butto (who has surprised me this year) and Reed Garrett (who couldn't surprise me because I barely knew who he was even when they got him from the Orioles last season.) It's going to be those guys who are going to decide this season in the collective, even more so than the Alonsos, the Lindors, the Brandon Nimmos and the Jeff McNeils. Because they're going to perform to their baseball cards, more or less. What will the baseball cards of Bader, Vientos, Taylor, Severino, Lopez and Houser say when it's all said and done in a season where six games can be the difference between the third wild card spot and a melancholy Fan Appreciation Day?

You can't fast forward to the end.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

I Was Wrong

June 3rd of last season. 120 games ago. 318 days ago. That was the last time the Mets had a winning record. They were 30-29 and I thought they were headed for another playoff appearance once everybody was healthy. I was wrong.


16 days ago, the team was 0-3 on its way to 0-5. If you had asked me then if the 2024 Mets could go 9-3 in their next 12 games, I would've asked if you're buying your ayahuasca from a certain Jets quarterback. I was wrong.


Yet here the Mets are, 9-8, bubbling over with confidence as a new hero emerges every day. The latest and greatest was Joey Wendle, who replaced Brett Baty and delivered a double to drive in the winning run. When Wendle originally came to the plate, I was thinking maybe a squeeze bunt to try and tie the game. I was wrong.


On Wednesday, Luis Severino will try to deliver his third straight solid outing. I confess, after his forgettable first start, coming off a horrific 2023, I figured he would be out of the rotation already. I was wrong.


So now the future looks good. The offense is scoring runs and delivering in big spots. The pitching has been good (best ERA in NL), and reports have Kodai Senga on track to come back late May. Edwin Diaz is back and the bullpen looks legit again. And now I have playoffs and maybe even an NL East Division Title dancing in my head. I hope I'm not wrong.


Monday, April 15, 2024

Thoughts on Doc's Day and Pettiness

 I went back to the first blog I ever wrote on this site. I promised a few things, first thing being "constant shots at the Wilpon fmily."

(I alos promised an essay about why Jeanne Zelasko should be dipped in motor oil and lit on fire, which I admit in hindsight may have been a little extreme ... though I think I might still have it in my drafts somewhere. Hey, it was 2005. Different times. Sorry, Jeanne.)

The Wilpons, however, should absolutely be dipped in motor oil and lit on fire. I'm not apologizing one bit for that, especially after Doc's number retirement speech on Sunday. To you millenials and Gen Z-ers who treat everything as if it's the first time we've ever heard it, we knew in '94 how much the Wilpons' took it personally when Doc relapsed with substance abuse problems. The further away we get from that time, and the more we learn about substance abuse, the more we realize that the Wilpons were absolute morons for taking it so personally. So when Doc said touchingly that he called the Mets every time he left another team, whether it be the Yankees, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay, it wasn't a surprise to hear that the team rebuffed him at all turns.

At least with that, you could always explain it away at it being a baseball decision. It's not as if the Mets couldn't justify not bringing a guy back who had a 4.94 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP between 1996 and 1999. But then when he said that he tried to retire as a Met with a one day ceremonia contract, and the Wilpons wouldn't even do that ... are we serious? The Wilpons couldn't even do that? Could they not afford that luncheon?

I've always felt that number retirements weren't solely based on how many years a player played for a franchise, or the statistical counting number that they put up. "This wasn't enough. That wasn't enough." Yes, that's certainly part of it. But there's also an element of how that player made the bulk of the fan base feel (yes, there will always be dissenters.) But Doc WAS Mets baseball from 1984-1988. In many ways, he was New York baseball during that time, and in 1985, he WAS baseball. His arrival in 1984 coincided with the rebirth of the Mets franchise that saw them leave the dark days post-Seaver trade and M. Donald Grant. And that 1986 title was the first and only title that a lot of us Gen-X Mets fans had ever seen.

And the Wilpons couldn't even give Doc a day ... A DAY ... to acknowledge the part he played in this. Doc wanted to come back. Begged it of you. And you couldn't give him a day, you no good lousy snake oil salesment. You treated the fans like peons for your entire reign of terror, and any roses you presented to the fan base had more thorns than a Ryan Church flight to Denver had bad ideas. And I'm glad Doc mentioned the Yankeesduring his speech. Yes, the fans booed ... it drove home the point that the Wilpons are petty. While I'm so glad they're gone, man ... think of how much different the last 20 years would have been with current ownership, or even non-toxic ownership. LOLMets makes sense when you realize that nobody treated Mets fans worse than the owners of the team. It all sends my vibes lower than Doc's '85 ERA.

Congratulations to Doc for finally getting the day you desereved ... 23 years too late thanks to certain people who should be metaphorically dipped in motor oil and lit on fire.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Steve Gelbs Vending Machine Burrito Part Of The Season Is Over For Now

The Mets went into their first road trip of the season in a very trepidatious position. Having gone 1-5 against the Brewers and Tigers, there lurked the very real possibility that they returned home 3-10 or 2-11, and the 2024 season would have been hanging off a cliff by its fingernails.

But as it turns out, that early season disaster might have just been a vending machine burrito like the one that Steve Gelbs subjected himself to on Saturday for some reason on the air. He cleansed through it and he's okay now. (Though I really didn't need the detail he provided on the air today, but I guess there's a subsection of people that enjoy hearing about the interaction between truck stop sushi and the lower intestines.) 

The Mets righted the proverbial ship and went 4-2 on this road trip against two good teams, Cincinnati and Atlanta. Might have gone 5-1 had Carlos Mendoza's entire bullpen not been hanging out in cryogenic chambers on Saturday, but to have the one successful comeback from 4-0 down in Atlanta and the one attempted comeback from 6-0 down, including two runs against the closer is good evidence that this team is going to grind through the adversity that comes their way. (Since they're the Mets, there will be more than their fair share of adversity.) Perhaps the Braves are wondering about us a little bit after that.

Throw in a crazy 16-4 victory today and you have a 5-7 team that has righted the ship a bit. The Braves helped us out on this one a few ways: After the rainout, they could have skipped Alan Winans and went with Max Fried on his regular turn. Instead they pushed everyone back and gave us Winans. Then, they made a bunch of errors. Then, they showed a little bit of hubris in the top of the 7th, playing the infield back with the bases loaded down by 4 runs with nobody out. They were confident in their ability to come back even at 8-3, and that's most likely correct. But 10-3 was a bridge too far as Francisco Alvarez drove home a run on a ground out and Jeff McNeil drove in two with a single. From then, the Braves wove the white flag as the Mets scored two in the 8th and four in the ninth off of Luis Guillorme. Amazingly, that was Guillorme's Braves debut. Not on a double switch, not a start to rest a regular ... but pitching in a 12-4 game. Did the Braves get him to be their clubhouse mascot or something?

(Speaking of, this above picture you see is what I got when I went to my AI source and typed "Mascot Mr. Met runs angrily carrying the Braves tomahawk". This is the monstrosity I got. I don't know why AI continually gives mascots teeth, but at least it's not Blooper, who is the vagrant hitchhiker of mascots.)

Nimmo has gone from ice cold to scorching hot. McNeil is starting to bang it. Pete Alonso swung at a fastball three feet outside this week but other than that, his approach has been better than it ever was last year. DJ Stewart hit a couple of key home runs which has dimmed the candles on my prayer circles for JD Martinez's cortisone shot. Francisco Lindor has earned every penny of his contract just for whatever he did to Brett Baty in Puerto Rico, because Baty looks like he's taken a stranglehold on third base for the Mets. Francisco Alvarez is Francisco Alvarez. And if Harrison Bader would kindly stop getting thrown out at second by 15 feet stretching for doubles, then this becomes a dangerous lineup.

as far as the pitching goes, I wasn't sure about Adam Ottavino and Drew Smith coming back to the 7th and 8th spots, but they have proven what I've always said about relievers being unpredictable. They're having solid seasons so far. Smith's stuff and his pitch selection have improved, and Ottavino has done his best to adjust to his problems with runners on base (and part of that adjusting is ... not letting runners on base.) Edwin Diaz is Edwin Diaz. The rest of the bullpen is hanging in admirably. If one of those can become our Darren Oliver (Reed Garrett? Maybe?) Then that'll bode well for the fact that the starters probably won't have much more length than 5 and 2/3's. If Jose Quintana and Sean Manaea can stay effective, if Luis Severino and Adrian Houser can stop scaring the brain matter out of me, and if Kodai Senga's posterior capsule could just go ahead and heal already, that would be nice.

The saying goes: "You can't win pennants in April. But you can sure lose them." The Mets were a bad road trip from losing their shot at the third wild card. But just as Gelbs' truck stop burrito worked it's way through him, the Mets' horrific start worked their way through them and, at least for now, the nausea of that first week has passed. You should still have your Gas X at arm's length.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Light The Cigar

After the Mets lost the first game of their doubleheader against the Tigers on Thursday, the Mets had completed Soul Crush Bingo.

Opening Day: "The Mayberry Campbell", where nobody hit.

Game Two: "The Carrasco", where the starting pitcher was useless (Although Luis Severino saw his ERA cut in half today when Zack Short was retroactively credited with an error, bringing Severino's ERA to 5.40 from 10.80 ... which is a reminder that it's somone's job to look at errors from six days prior.) The judges will also accept "The Estes", where the Mets awkwardly respond to a dickhead move by an opponent.

Game Four: "The deGrom", where the starting pitcher (in this case Sean Manaea) pitches excellent, but gets no run support in an extra inning loss by five runs.

And then you have the first game of today's doubleheader against the Tigers: "The Rojas", where the bullpen implodes. Thankfully it wasn't Edwin Diaz, but Jake Diekman threw a pitch to Pomona while Riley Greene hit one to Teterboro off Adam Ottavino to blow a 3-1 lead. This game also gave us a new category: The Mets not responding to the Tigers stranding their ghost runner in the 10th by also stranding their ghost runner. This was thanks in part to Carlos Mendoza inexplicably asking hot hitting Brett Baty to bunt the runner over.against Shelby Miller. The Tigers would then score three in the 11th off of Michael Sisk-Tonkin to salt the game away.

That's pretty much every page from the "How to Break Our Fans' Hearts" that the Mets have referred to for years and years. Thing is, it usually takes three months to see all of these in a given season. 2024 gave us all of these in a week.I mean, what could the Mets do to possibly top this?

Oh, right. "The Heston".

In Game 2 of the doubleheader, the Mets were no-hit for seven innings by multiple Tigers pitchers, including Matt Manning who they had just called up, and held a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Javy Baez (and congratulations to Baez for his first Tigers hit on a slider three feet out of the zone.) The amount of people who would have checked into insane asylums if the Mets had lost a no-hitter where the only run was driven in by Javy Baez would have been off the charts.

Thankfully, Jesus, Buddha and Josh Satin (baseball god in training) took mercy on the Mets. Harrison Bader broke up the no-hitter on an excuse me hit to the outfield in the 8th. He was stranded there, but at least the no-hitter was over. Then in the 9th with the score still 1-0 thanks to three shutout innings in relief by Reed Garrett, Pete Alonso faced Alex Faedo to lead off the inning. I remember thinking that Alonso is usually extra motivated when he faces his old college teammates.

Alonso's dinger, reminiscent of Gary Carter's Opening Day homer from 1985, was a huge relief. But it was only half the battle as the Mets needed to win this before it got to extra innings, which have treated the Mets poorly so far this season. Thankfully, Tyrone Taylor prevented what was sure to be another heartbreaking defeat. Suddenly, the Mets went from taking the most embarrassing start to the season anyone can think of to Cincinnati with them, to a 2-1 victory to earn the split of their rain aided doubleheader. Also not accompanying Carlos Mendoza to Cincinnati is the Willie Randolph memorial first win metaphorical cigar, which sat in Willie's luggage for a similar five game stretch to start 2005.

Days with a win are special. Days where your manager gets his first major league win are two be cherished. Days wher yout team plays 20 innings and the look like dog piss for about 16 of them but still comes away 1-1 ... well those are days you look back on when you're old and gray to try to find that twinkle in your eye again. 

Monday, April 01, 2024

The Rainout Was The Best Game So Far

Opening Day on Thursday was postponed due to rain. Too bad the Mets couldn't postpone the entire series against the Brewers.

Friday was bad.

Saturday was excruciating, watching Rhys Hoskins destroy the Mets after his garbage slide into Jeff McNeil the day before and subsequent mocking of The Squirrel. I did enjoy Yohan Ramirez throwing behind Hoskins, and it seemed to spark the team, though they still lost.

Sunday brought another L and a Tylor Megill injury, the severity of which is still to be determined. 

Amazingly, the Mets aren't in the basement of the NL East (the Nats are 0-4), nor am I blogging in John Coppinger's Mom's basement (read Saturday's blog). But it does seem like there's nowhere to go but up. 

There have been some bright spots, including both Pete Alonso and Francisco Alvarez hitting well, homering when possible, while going to right field when the pitch calls for it. Starling Marte looks solid. Brett Baty showed signs of life after last year's meltdown. And Edwin Diaz returned and looked close to normal Edwin Diaz, which is great.

Unfortunately, three guys are hitting Bingo numbers, namely Brandon Nimmo (.077), Francisco Lindor (.083) and McNeil (.091). Until they get rolling and JD Martinez is ready to go, it might be rough.

But it's a marathon, not a sprint. Three games do not a season make. 

Hopefully, Sean Manaea pitches like he did his last 4 starts of 2023, when he pitched 24 innings, allowing 20 hits, 6 earned runs, 2 walks and 18 strikeouts. Breaking it down, he averaged 6 innings per game, with a 2.25 era and a strikeout to walk ratio of 9:1. In case you weren't sure, that's really good. Considering one of the games was at Colorado and another was at the Dodgers, it was frickin' fantastic.

And because I'm feeling positive, I'm not going to mention the Tigers' starter on Monday is Reese Olson, who was drafted by the Brewers and GM David Stearns. Which means he's probably going to handcuff Mets hitters like Freddy Peralta, DL Hall and Colin Rea just did. Nope, I'm not going to talk about that all. Nothing to see here, please disperse.

#LFGM

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Back In The Basement

I've never actually blogged from my mom's basement.

But to come back to this site is probbly the equivalent of moving back home, and going back to the days where "go back to your mom's basement" was the sickest a burn could get. I probably had my best years here on this old site, and now that circumstances took me away from the site I had been writing on for the past 13 seasons, I'm thankful to have the opportunity to be back here where it's easy and stress free. (And because I said "no" to the guy that wanted to buy this site about 5-10 years ago. Couldn't do that to my baby.)

I was going to lie low for a while, and very well still might. But the events of the first two games of the 2024 season were too much for me to stay away. (And man, blogging here in 2024 where the first page of this site features Ike Davis, Joe Morgan, and Jeff Francoeur is really jarring ... not to mention that my eyesight for this 8 point font is shot.)

So the first thing I want to say is that I was the one booing Rhys Hoskins constantly while all of you were busy booking Bryce Harper for no reason, so I'm the OG on this. Look, Hoskins' Opening Day slide was legal. But it doesn't mean it was necessary. The Brewers were up 3-1.. He was out by a mile. He could hve just slid to the bag or gotten down. But he mad sure that he got a spike on Jeff McNeil's leg while rolling over his other leg. It ws shitty. Did Jeff McNeil overreact? Possibly. But if this has been a constant thing with Hoskins, then I understand it.

And Hoskins' "crybaby" mock was rich considering he whined about Jacob Rhame for a week.

So we get to Game 2, and Yohan Ramirez throws at Hoskins late in the game. Towards his back. He said after the game that the sinker got away from him. (Whatever you say, Yohan.) And the prevailing theme among former plaayers like Ron Darling and Todd Zeile was that it shouldn't have happened after he had already driven in four runs and beat your head in. And they're probably right.

But they're also taking unwritten rules from their era and applying it to the present, which don't equal out. In Darling and Zeile's day, players were allowed to police themselves. Now, if you throw at a guy after a very public incident, you're suspended. And if you're a starter, it's 5-10 games. If you're Luis Severino, making your first start as a Met, the last thing you want to do is go out after 2/3's of an inning and strain your bullpen. As it is, Ramirez will probably be gone for a while, but he's the last guy in the bullpen and I'm convinced that the job of the last guy in the bullpen is retailation. (How ya doin' Yoan Lopez?) So what do you do? It's a no win situation.

Of course, no win situtions are what the Mets are good at, because as of now in the year of our Lord 2024, the Mets have no wins. They don't look particularly good either. On Friday, they got one hit. On Saturday, they had a late flurry, but Severino's awful outing and Adam Ottavino's extra run doomed the Mets to n 0-2 record. And if Kodai Senga is out for a long period of time, Jorge Lopez sets games on fire out of the bullpen, and Severino turns out to be Dale Doback to Carlos Carrasco's Brennan Huff, then this has the makings of being a long season. And if it's a long season, will Pete Alonso be the Mets first baseman by the end of it?

At the very least, we were warned that this was going to be the transitional season, so I had zero expectations going in anyway. But man, to have the first two games go the way they did with Hoskins being at the center of controversy while beating the Mets' breains in for the second game, it might be the most disheartening two game start to the season I've experienced in a long time. This had better pick up quick or Alonso is going to be singing "Go Cubs Go" on Clark and Addison while we're figuring out what position Christopher Morel is going to play.

But for now, all I have to say is that it's good to be back. I'll be here from time to time to check in with you. I just hope the title of this post isn't a hint of what's to come. Also: piss off, Rhys.