We offer advice on how the Mets can not only get back to the World Series in 2016 but this time, win it all.
The New York Mets came a long way in 2015. But perhaps they came too far, too fast. Because anytime a member of a professional sports club says the words “no one expected us to even get this far,” you’re doomed. So what if no pundit expected this outcome in April, you as a player or manager should! Winning games are what you get paid to do.
I’m sorry, but simply finishing a 162 game schedule isn’t an accomplishment. There are no participation awards given out in Major League Baseball. And even if you had the tiniest seed of a doubt that you wouldn’t beat the defending American League Champion Kansas City Royals, you should let it be known that you’re up to the challenge and expect to win.
Now looking back over the series as a whole, after losing Game 1 in a grueling 14 inning duel, it was clear that the New York Mets did not possess the confidence in their own ability to close out the necessary four out of seven games. And here is why…
Terry Collins mismanaged both the rotation and bullpen:
First of all, I like you, was really disenchanted with the whole Matt Harvey innings limit--Scott Boras bonus baby--Mets shutting him down situation. I feel this charade will inevitably lead to a tenuous situation going forward, perhaps culminating in an eventual trade of Harvey for a boat-load of prospects and/or a power bat to replace Yoenis Cespedes (yeah, you read that right).
And you can disagree all you want, but I would bet the farm that appeasing Matt Harvey had just about everything to do with the fact that Terry Collins sent him back out in the 9th inning of Game 5, even after already throwing 102 pitches before taking the mound for the final frame.
Now let us recap, in a matter of about two months, the Mets went from almost shutting down Harvey for the remainder of the season due to an innings cap, to letting him throw well over the magic number of 100 pitches in a high-pressure situation. Hey, I get that it’s the World Series, and Harvey stepped up in a big way demanding the ball, but all these moves are contradictory. Which brings me to my next point.
Jacob deGrom has been the Mets most consistent starting pitcher over the past two seasons (9-6, a 2.69 ERA, 144 K’s and a Rookie of the Year award in 2004, followed up by 14-8, a 2.49 ERA, 205 K’s and an All-Star appearance this season). Then why exactly didn’t he get the ball in Game 1 of the World Series? So what if deGrom had a 7.02 ERA in the “Fall Classic,” while Harvey had a much lower 3.21, deGrom only pitched once, in Game 2!
There is no argument to be made where your best hurler only takes the mound once because you only lasted 5 out of 7 games. Jacob deGrom simply needed to pitch Game 1. If you win (which the NYM didn’t), you come back with Noah Syndergaard because there would be no pressure on the rookie phenom to lose home field advantage.
Then you follow up with your “most veteran” starter, Harvey in Game 3 at home in front of a raucous New York crowd. Worst case scenario, deGrom pitches Games 1, 4 and even 7, while Harvey gets Game 3, then possibly bumped up to Game 6 if you need to win to stay alive. You already showed you no longer have a regard for an innings limit, so let's not get into needing 3 or 4 days rest. And although Steven Matz only gave up two runs in Game 4, he lasted a short five innings which taxed the already thin bullpen.
And here is my biggest issue with Terry Collins, he constantly mismanaged the bullpen. No, Sandy Alderson didn’t do him much of a favor in terms of acquisitions at the trade deadline. Tyler Clippard was a nice addition, but Addison Reed still hasn’t shown the potential he flashed while as a member of the Chicago White Sox. Moving Jonathan Niese to the bullpen after the return of Matz from injury didn’t do much to boost the confidence of Niese either, who ended the season at 9-10 with a 4.13 ERA.
But above all else, by not developing more capable and consistent middle relief arms during the summer months, most if not all of the pressure was put squarely on the unproven shoulders of Jeurys Familia. The man who came out of obscurity following the suspension of opening day closer Jenry Mejia was lights-out during the regular season.
Familia racked up 43 saves and a 1.85 ERA, but he did so after appearing in 76 contests! Talk about overkill. He appeared in the same exact amount of games back in 2014, as a member of middle relief.
After presenting this evidence, it's understandable that Familia finally cracked in the World Series, blowing three saves. But why was he allowed to blow these potential wins? Simple, because Collins did not build trust in any one of his other relief options. And no, Bartolo Colon is not a relief pitcher, he doesn't have the mentality.
Poor management of the 'pen put a huge taxation on a young starting staff and a potential dominant closer for years to come. I just hope for Familia's sake, the wear and tear this this long, drawn out campaign doesn't do more harm than good (Joba Chamberlain anyone?)
The defense made 6 errors:
This figure could have easily been in double digits, as a number of questionable calls were inevitably ruled hits. Such instances include Lucas Duda’s wild throw to home plate in Game 5, with two outs in the 9th inning, which allowed Eric Hosmer to score; Daniel Murphy booting the ball around in both Games 4 & 5, like his name, was Cristiano Ronaldo; as well as Yoenis Cespedes (who was played out of position, more on that later) who’s failed spectacular try in Game 1 allowed Alcides Escobar’s inside-the-park home run.
To put it bluntly, Lucas Duda belongs in the American League, he’s a designated hitter, no more, no less. Between his awkward footwork and erratic throwing arm at first base, he is a consistent liability at such an important infield position.
Yoenis Cespedes is not a center fielder. He played constantly out of position. But it wasn’t his fault. He never manned anything but left field before being dealt to the Mets. So why did Terry Collins think he could cover such a huge patch of real estate at Citi Field? Because he has above average speed and a great arm?
So does Bryce Harper, and yet he too is much better suited for a corner outfield position. But why you ask? Because the ball comes off the bat at an entirely different angle to CF, it comes in straight; not on a curve or loop as it does for the corner slots. Nine times of out ten, a natural center fielder can adjust to playing the corners (take Curtis Granderson for instance), but the other way around is tricky, and La Potencia proved this theory correct.
Back to the infield, David Wright has clearly lost a step, it’s only natural for a 32-year-old guy coming off a major spinal injury. And with the loss of Reuben Tejada in the Division Series, who is a much better defensive shortstop than his replacement Wilmer Flores, Wright was pressed into playing further away from the foul line to make up for Flores’ deficiencies; again this was made ever so clear on the spin and throw to Duda in Game 5 that scored Eric Hosmer.
As for Daniel Murphy, he’s never been a great defender, average at best, and now that an onus was put on his bat because of his outstanding showing in the first two rounds of the playoffs, his defensive game was sacrificed even further because by Terry Collins inserted him into the 3 hole in the lineup. You see, “Murph” was now deemed a “power hitter” because he was batting in an RBI slot. It was more unnecessary pressure put on a guy who was overachieving in a big way.
To round out the flaws of the infield, young catcher Travis d’Arnaud allowed the Royals to go 7-7 in stolen base attempts. All that did was put immense pressure on the pitchers to keep base runners close, undoubtedly taking away focus from the batter at the plate.
The bats flamed out:
While Sandy Alderson may not have done much in the way of improving the Mets’ bullpen, he did a whole lot for the offense; between calling up Michael Conforto, acquiring Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and of course Yoenis Cespedes, Alderson deserves a pat on the back.
Anyone who watched the Mets this year knows that the entire lineup came alive with the arrival of Cespedes from Detroit. And sure, the return of David Wright from a six-month long absence also brought a lot in terms of clubhouse leadership.
The Mets were a sight be seen, slugging their way to a World Series appearance and storybook finale. Unfortunately, each hitter left their offensive potency the round before in Chicago; and no one was a greater example of this than Daniel Murphy. A cult hero against the Dodgers and Cubs, “Murph” was hotter than the flames of Hades.
However, when the lights were at their brightest, Daniel Murphy played like, well, Daniel Murphy. A career .288 hitter with a high of 14 home runs, hit this season, Murphy went 3-20 with no long balls. The Captain, David Wright hit .208, Travis d’Arnaud batted .143 and Wilmer Flores was an abysmal .043.
Then there is the man who carried the Mets towards October, La Potenica. Maybe he was worn down, not used to playing into the late fall. But wow, did he struggle! His marble-like sculpted body seemed to betray him. Every little nick took him out of play, literally. I’m a bit surprised, nay disappointed, that a big leaguer with such a huge payday coming up in a matter of mere weeks couldn’t fight through the rigors that come with playing into October.
When his team really needed him most, Cespedes disappeared. Sure his bat was non-existent, a .150 BA solidified that fact, but more important was the loss of his presence in the lineup at crucial moments of the series
Light at the end of the tunnel:
It begins with the starting pitching. Matt Harvey is 26-years-old, Jacob deGrom-27, Noah Syndergaard-22, Steven Matz-24, and even Jonathan Niese is only 28. Throw in 25-year-old Zack Wheeler, who will return from Tommy John surgery sometime in the summer, and another 25-year-old prospect in Rafael Montero, and well, you’ve got yourself a plethora of starters for the next 10 years or so.
And if the need really arises, you could always trade one or two of the aforementioned fellas to fill any needs you incur before the 2016 campaign begins. I would lean towards dealing Matz or Wheeler, simply because of past injury concerns. But the haul would have to be plentiful.
Michael Conforto. The 22-year-old left fielder was playing in the College World Series less than 12 full months ago, while at Oregon State University. After getting called up to the big leagues during the middle of summer, Conforto slugged .506, hit 9 HR’s and had 26 RBI’s while batting .270 in only 56 games, proving he should be a mainstay in the Mets’ outfield for years to come.
Juan Lagares. Either give him the everyday center field job or trade him, because he won’t get any better as a late inning defensive replacement. Maybe Lagares showed what he’s capable of while batting over .300 in the World Series. Or he could have simply strung together a couple of good at bats because he did hit .269 with 6 homers after getting a full seasons load of plate appearances with 441.
Keep Curtis Granderson. He’s only signed for the one more season when he’ll turn 35 years of age. The “Grandy Man” actually walked 91 times (the most in his 12-year career), something he’s struggled with since his days in Detroit. Now yes, he did strike out 151 times, but Curtis played in 157 games while belting 26 home runs with 70 RBI’s, regularly batting out of place as the lead-off man.
I say, stick him back in right field for 2016 and get what you can from him while his contract comes to an end. But move him down in the order, I'd say 5th or 6th suits his attributes best. The free agent class this time around isn’t all that deep, and at the very least you know that “Grandy” can still handle the ferocious New York media market.
Trade Lucas Duda. His value will never be any higher than it is right now. Duda’s 27 home runs and 73 RBI’s are really good numbers for a first baseman. But when you factor in his below average defensive ability, the fact that he is super prone to streaks and his inability to hit left handed pitching, trading Duda to an American League team in need of a DH makes the most logical sense. Leverage him for a lead-off hitter.
Other options for first base could be to stick Michael Cuddyer there for the last guaranteed year of his contract, or make a big splash by breaking the bank for former Baltimore Oriole, Chris Davis. If not, offer a 2 year, $12-15 million per year deal to Edwin Encarnacion, or go cheap and bring in the likes of Mark Reynolds. Any one of these alternatives is stronger defensively than Duda, although you have to worry about Encarnacion’s increasing lack of durability.
Resign Daniel Murphy if…he is willing to sign for no more than 4 years and $40 million. Anything more is not worth his value. I’d rather have Howie Kendrick or Ben Zobrist for 2-4 years and $30 million total.
See if Travis d’Arnaud can stay healthy. A .268 BA, 12 HR’s and 41 RBI’s in only 67 games are uber-impressive. But can d’Arnaud sustain the ability to play 145 games, give or take? If not, a move to first base might be in the cards, just to keep his potent bat in the lineup.
Sign Free Agent Ian Desmond. No, Desmond did not have a prototypical Ian Desmond-like year. But he did somewhat find himself in August, finishing with a .233 BA, 19 HR’s and 62 RBI’s while only missing six games in 2015.
That’s what the Mets need, consistent ability to hit for power while more importantly, playing as many games as the calendar holds. Yes, he did commit a career high 27 errors, but how else can you easily replace your less than stellar incoming shortstops and still make up for the potential loss of Yoenis Cespedes' bat.
Add Bullpen Arms. This is the biggest need for the New York Mets. General Manager Sandy Alderson needs to start by resigning Tyler Clippard, though Clippard may finally seek to become some fortunate teams closer (San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta). Any combination of the likes of Ryan Madson, Jason Motte, Joakim Soria and/or Marc Lowe are all low risk, high reward type arms.
Try to Resign Cespedes. La Potencia is going to command at least 7 years and $160 million. Will it be from the Mets? There’s a 50/50 chance he leaves, as Cespedes himself has already stated. But the Mets may not open the purse strings wide enough, as they have been burned by one too many big name free agents in the past (Bobby Bonilla, Mike Hampton, Carlos Beltran). If Cespedes is deemed too expensive, the Mets should try for equally talented players still in their prime (their value shouldn’t exceed $100 million), such as Justin Upton, Jason Heyward or Alex Gordon.
All in all, it was a great year for the New York Mets, but they came up short of the ultimate prize. And if you’re not a Mets fan, in about 3-years time when someone asks you who the Kansas City Royals beat in the 2015 World Series, you’ll probably draw a blank.
That right there should be enough motivation for the Amazins to get back to the World Series sooner rather than later. It took 15 long years for this club to play into late October. Don’t make it another decade and a half, Metropolitans.
Food for thought. I know a larger segment of people wanted to see the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, simply to prove Back to the Future Part II right. But chew on this, its been 30 years since the Kansas City Royals won a championship. 1985, the same year Back to the Future Part I hit theaters, the same year Back to the Future Part II was supposed to take place; before Marty and Doc traveled to 2015. Now how bout them apples!