Yoenis Cespedes, Dingers & The Fun Value

I love baseball. I love the Mets. You know what else I like? Fun. I like having a good time. I like when my baseball is fun baseball and not a boring collection of strikeouts and grinding out walks in long, terrible at-bats no matter the strategic value of said plate appearances.

Enter Yoenis Cespedes.

When he came over to the Mets in the 2015 trade deadline deal from the Detroit Tigers, we knew he was an impact bat, but by no means did we expect this offensive juggernaut that we would embrace as one of ours even close to as quickly as we did and then demand he be brought back for the largest annual value contracts in the history of the team.

Which poses the question: why did we fall in love with Cespedes so quickly? Simple: he makes baseball fun to watch and his time at the plate is must-see, destination viewing. If you miss a Cespedes at-bat, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

We love characters, we love power, we love larger-than-life personalities and Yoenis checks off all of those boxes. When he launched his first homer last night off of Clay Buchholz to put the Mets ahead 3-0, we marveled at the sheer ferocity with which he swings. When his second of the game shot out to left field, we were in awe of just how hard he could sting a baseball. For most other players, that point of contact would have hooked the ball foul, but not Yoenis. He’s so brutally strong and slammed walloped that ball so viciously that he was able to keep it straight enough long enough before it was able to slow down its flight path and tail toward the wrong side of the foul pole.

How do you top that? Just hit a third one. In a game where it felt like the whole lineup was having a good day, Cespedes still found a way to be the singular person in the spotlight. Three homers. The second time he’s done that as a member of the Mets and the very first Mets player to ever have two such games in the history of the franchise.

For a team that is now in its 56th season, anytime you see a player achieve a “first” in team history is an impressive feat.

Cespedes is better than any of us gave him credit for when he was first brought over during that 2015 season. He single-handedly carried that squad through the last eight weeks on his back to a division title and then followed that with an equally impressive 2016 season even factoring in some time lost to injury.

When people questioned his level of dedication following a huge contract signing this offseason, he reported to spring training in absolutely ridiculous shape and reiterated his desire to not only win a championship (you have to say the political thing), but also to achieve a personal goal of winning the National League MVP award (which is something no Mets player has ever done). Personally, I love that.

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He’s got a flair. He’s got style. He wants to be the best. I don’t care how many different cars he shows up to work in. I don’t care how many horses he owns. I don’t care how often he plays golf during his time off. When it’s time to play, Yoenis Cespedes has always shown up ready to go to work. And he makes things exciting, entertaining and fun when he does. You can’t ask for anything more.

A Toast To David Wright

On Tuesday, the Mets released the news that we’ve all been expecting, but were hoping to avoid: David Wright had another setback and won’t be ready for Opening Day. After the spinal stenosis diagnosis last in 2015 and the neck surgery last year that has limited him to just 75 games over the past two seasons, this latest news very much has the feeling that we may have seen the last of the beloved captain and owner of most of the career records in team history.

Simply said: this sucks. Since Wright arrived in the majors in 2004, he’s been everything you could have asked for on the field and seems like a genuinely good dude off of it. David grew up a Mets fan, was drafted by the team that he and we love and made his way through the system to become a 7-time All-Star, team captain and have the greatest career of any position player in Mets history. To see his career cut short by these kinds of injuries in such a quick and definitive fashion would be painful enough, but then to continue to bust his ass and try to come back, putting in the work the way he has and seeing him have to re-learn how to move, stay in shape and keep up his fitness just to have it continually pulled back away from him is devastating to see.

He still has four years and $67m to go on his contract and nobody in their right mind expects him to just walk away from that. He’ll always be around in some fashion, hopefully, as an ambassador for the team meeting with VIPs, doing charity work and other things. He’s already not the David Wright we knew and loved physically – as even those of us who aren’t super-scouts could tell how much of a struggle it was for him defensively and how long his swing had gotten in his limited time last season – so if this is the capper on a fine career, then obviously we wish him the best. I understand not being ready to give up something you love and basically the only thing you’ve known since you were a kid, but – genuinely – I want David Wright the person to have as healthy and fulfilling a quality of life as possible and hope he doesn’t risk some kind of permanent disability trying to hang on just a bit longer.

I’m happy he did get the chance to play in a World Series and that he hit that homer in Game 3 at Citi Field. Though the injuries may have curtailed his push to get his numbers into Hall of Fame territory, there should be no question that some day we’ll be seeing his number 5 being retired by Mets. He was the block of stability during some very lean years for the team and made the commitment to staying at a time when he could have easily played out his deal and chosen to go elsewhere.

So, if this is it, thank you, David. It’s been a pleasure to cheer for you over the years and you’ve set a very high standard for future Mets to live up to.

Shut Up Assholes, Signing Tebow Is Fine

Let me be the one to put all your fragile minds at ease.

Tim Tebow signed a minor-league contract with the Mets today. He is not going to be on the major league roster this season…or next season, for that matter. He is not adding to an already crowded outfield. He will not be affecting the chemistry of the big league team during a stretch-run.

This is not embarrassing. You are not embarrassed. If at any point you DO feel embarassed, you are a moron. Plain and simple. You, kind sir and/or madam, are a fucking simpleton and are hereby no longer entitled to an opinion.

The biggest arguments against this are from people who are acting like he’s going to be taking playing time away from young (actual) major leaguers like Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo. As we’ve established, this is not happening.

Then the next and best argument is that signing Tebow is a publicity stunt of the worst kind and the Mets should be embarassed. This one is only partially incorrect.

Yes, signing someone of Tim Tebow’s notoriety is part publicity stunt. But it is not a desperate one, nor even a bad one. For an example of a completely negative sports-franchise publicity stunt, look no further than when Tebow was traded from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets.

It was a move completely forced by Jets owner, Woody Johnson, in an attempt to sell jerseys and personal seat licenses, but it quickly became an embarassment for the franchise as the coaching staff rejected Tebow from the very beginning and he ended up taking up a valuable roster spot as the backup quarterback and, even when starter Mark Sanchez faltered, was kept on the sidelines in favor of a third-stringer.

This is not happening with the Mets’ signing of Tebow today. Yes, he will be taking up a roster spot at the minor-league level, but it’s not like he will be hindering the development of a blue-chip prospect and, in fact, will add some much needed star power to the minor leagues who are always running some sort of gimmick or promotion in an attempt to draw more people to minor-league games.

Tebow brings star power and attention. He will sell tickets. He will sell jerseys. He is a PR machine like very few other major athletes alive right now.More than that, he’s a quality human being. At no point has Tim Tebow ever been connected to drugs, scandal or domestic violence. The worst thing ever said about him is that he’s very religious. Apparently, that rubs some people the wrong way.

I’m an atheist. I have the right to be. Tim Tebow also has the right to worship his god as he sees fit. So, to be perfectly honest with you, I couldn’t care less how hard Tim Tebow religions because at no point does it affect me or the way I have to lead my life.

He is an athletic freak. You have to be to even be considered to play professional sports at any level. Maybe (and most likely) he doesn’t ever crack a major league roster. So what? Since when did we become so obsessed with tearing people down and wanting to see them fail?

Tim Tebow is an immensely talented human being who brings a built-in fanbase so an organization that can benefit both financially and in public relations from what he brings to the table. This is the dictionary definition of a “no-lose situation”.

Tebow gets to try his hand at a different professional sport and the Mets and other franchises get to sell tickets to people who clearly have an interest in his pursuits. If he learns to hit off-speed pitching, who knows, maybe one day he’ll get a cup of coffee in the bigs and Mets GM, Sandy Alderson will be regaled as a genius for seeing something in “the failed football player”.

Or maybe Tebow only plays a year of A-ball and realizes that he’s been away from baseball for far too long to have a legitimate chance of moving through the system. There’s no shame in trying and failing. Good on him for putting himself out there knowing full well that people will be frothing at the mouth and waiting for him to fail so they can jump on him again.

At no point have I ever been a Tebow supporter, but I have zero against the guy. Let him try. It’s not affecting the Mets at the major league level and will only help their exposure and financials in the lower levels of the minors. Worst case scenario: it doesn’t work out and he goes back to ESPN to be a college football analyst again. Oh well.

So if you’re waiting for Tebow to fail, shush. Because if he didn’t sign with Mets, there was another half-dozen teams waiting to do the same thing.

For now, though…it’s Tebow Time.

Playoffs?! Are Mets Playoff Bound? Would That Even Be Enough?

I try to have realistic expectations when it comes to the Mets and, a lot of times, those come off as rather negative, but – when it comes down to it – we all want the same thing: for the Mets to win the World Series.

Coming into the 2016 season, I said how strange it felt to actually have genuine expectations for this ballclub. As Met fans, we’ve basically gotten used to being out of things before the trade deadline, but still seem to enjoy the few bright spots whether that be an overperforming fan favorite (see: Dickey, R.A, 2012) or a singular moment of awesomeness (Santana, Johan, also 2012). There are times when the team is bad, but there’s still enough to have fun while taking in the day-to-day grind of the season.

There’s been plenty of years where I’ve gone to a ton of games during lost seasons and found ways to still maximize the fun value whether that be through cheap tickets, short lines for bathrooms and concessions or not having to wait to get out of the parking lot. That kind of stuff matters to a ballpark experience.

This year was different, though. Coming off a surprise World Series appearance last year, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the same seats at the same prices anymore. I knew I’d have to wait a bit longer than usual to get a steak sandwich. More importantly, I knew I had a team on the field that wasn’t building for the future, but meant to contend right now.

To be honest, the fact that the Mets are only 6 games out in the NL East right now despite all of the injuries they’ve suffered in the lineup is an accomplishment in itself. The team has looked so inept offensively at times that you have to wonder just how much of a catastrophe this season would have been had the front office followed the original blueprint and not resigned Yoenis Cespedes.

But let’s not play the “what-if” game right now. Let’s take a genuine look at what we have as we start the second half tonight in Philadelphia. Can this team make the playoffs? Is making the playoffs enough to fulfill the preseason expectations? Can Daniel Murphy just leave us alone? Let’s examine.

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Is there enough pitching to hold this together?

This is the most important question and the answer isn’t as simple as it was even a month ago. Matt Harvey hasn’t been the Matt Harvey we thought we were getting and will now miss the remainder of the season due to surgery. For now, at least, he’ll be replaced in the rotation by Logan Verrett who has basically been your typical 6th starter/swingman out of the bullpen. Key thing to remember here is that while Harvey has a lot of name value, the performance that needs to be replaced wasn’t Cy Young level so Verrett should – hopefully – be able to give you what you were getting out of Harvey before the injury.

A bigger problem is the setbacks in the rehab of Zack Wheeler. Originally expected to be returning to the rotation around now, Wheeler has continually suffered what the team has classified as “minor” setbacks and hasn’t even thrown off a mound as of yet. That is not good. At this point, it’s basically unreasonable to expect any kind of significant contribution from Wheeler in 2016.

Which brings us to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz who both have bone spurs in their elbows which doesn’t even include Thor’s recent “dead arm” issue. If one or both of them decides that the pain from the spur is just too much and decides to have surgery to remove it, this team is dead in the water as there just isn’t the depth in the system that there used to be because of promotions, trades and Rafael Montero completely forgetting how to pitch. Bartolo Colon was brought back this season to give the team a bridge in the rotation until Wheeler would come back at which point he’d move into the pen and provide depth. He’s been terrific and the Mets have needed it as their best-laid plans have caught fire.

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Why didn’t they re-sign Daniel Murphy?

Look, Murph was here for a long time and was a nice player, but aside from two weeks in October, he never looked like the player he has apparently become. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and the Mets desperately needed to upgrade defensively after they were absolutely exposed in the World Series against the Royals. Allowing Murph to leave gave them the chance to add a comparable offensive player in Neil Walker who was a definite improvement with the glove while also being able to add a first-round sandwich pick in the draft after giving Daniel the qualifying offer. With Dilson Herrera waiting in Las Vegas to take over 2B in Queens, the ability to use Walker as a one year stopgap and get back another compensation draft pick when he leaves as a free agent after this year was a smart tactical decision by the front office. Sure, it stings that Murphy has had a great year and has hit something like 43 homers against just the Mets so far, but sometimes these things happen. I’m not rooting against Murph. For a team that lacks positive moments in their history, Murph provided us with one of the all-time great postseason runs – not just in Mets history – but in all of baseball. We should always be grateful for that.

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Is Jose Reyes the biggest addition we’ll see for this lineup?

From how it sounds…probably. But is this enough? I wasn’t enamored with the idea of signing Jose. As much as I was a fan during his first go-round in Queens, the combination of declining skills and him grabbing his wife by the throat and slamming her into a door didn’t exactly put him at the top of my list. But he’s here. He’s shown obvious signs of rust which is to be expected since he hasn’t seen major league action since last October, but, aside from that, there does appear to be something left in the tank. He’s obviously motivated to reclaim his career and – even if he isn’t as fast as he used to be – he’s still a net positive on the basepaths (as long as he can get on base with any consistency) because the Mets – as a team – may have the least footspeed of any team ever. This team is strictly station to station which limits the things you can do offensively if you can’t steal a base or go first to third on a single to right or even score from second on a base hit. This team needs to be able to generate more runs so Reyes could be valuable if he finds even some of what made him special way back when.

The lineup will still need another addition, but it’s doubtful it will come from outside the organization in another Cespedes-type acquisition like last year. Lucas Duda seems no closer to returning than he did when he first went out and the team may have to rely on Walker, Curtis Granderson to provide bigger second halves to go along with the return of Michael Conforto once he returns to the big club from a stint in Triple-A. Before going down, Conforto looked absolutely overmatched and was an automatic out. Hopefully, he comes back in a similar fashion that d’Arnaud did when he was demoted a few years back with a renewed approach and clear head.

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Is Terry Collins the right guy to be leading this team?

I hate Terry. It’s no secret. I can’t kill him too much this season because of all the injuries, but do I have faith that Terry Collins will be to outmaneuver anybody come crunch time? No. Not in the least. Unfortunately, barring an unforseen and atypical ballsy move by Alderson, Collins is here to stay.

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Is this a playoff caliber team? Is just making the playoffs enough?

Can this team as currently constructed make the playoffs? Tough question. I’d lean toward yes, they can, but it’s far from a sure thing. The Marlins have been surprising and while the Pirates haven’t played as well as you may have expected, there’s still plenty of time for them to get hot. The Dodgers currently hold the first Wild Card spot, but if Clayton Kershaw’s back injury is anything longer-term than thought, they are in real trouble with a thin rotation.

The Mets had huge expectations coming into the year with a maturing pitching staff that was considered the best in the game and a solid lineup that Collins never figured out how to work before everybody dropped like flies anyway. I am not confident that the Mets will catch the Nationals. It wouldn’t be absurd if they did, but this is not the Nationals of last year. They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder and are taking extra enjoyment each time they can humble the Mets, especially when Murphy is the one leading the way.

The Mets will have to slide in as a Wild Card where they have as good a shot as anybody as long as they don’t lose any of the other pitchers. But would that be enough to satisfy preseason expectations?

Honestly? Yeah. To me, yes. The Mets – in their history – have only qualified for the postseason in consecutive years one time (1999-2000). That’s it. We’ve sat through such consistency of losing that our great teams are standalone years as opposed to transcendent eras of winning. This team has enough pieces in place where this can be a sustained run of competitiveness and – with the amount of teams that now qualify for the postseason – should be playing meaningful September and October baseball for the foreseeable future.

Only eight teams (the two that lose the Wild Card game really don’t count) in the majors make the playoffs. It’s an accomplishment to get there after such a long season and should be respected and appreciated as such. As a Mets fan, you’ve learned to deal with extended periods of losing baseball while keeping the optimism high that the future holds better days. Well, that future is here. This team may not be blowing teams out of the water like the 86 or 06 teams did, but they’re a far cry from being “the worst team money can buy” of the early 90s.

Yes, missed opportunity to score a run from third with less than two out is going to frustrate you, but sometimes you have to take a step back and remember, “Hey…we went to the World Series last year.” I know I do. It actually happened. I have a cap and jersey that actually say “World Series” on it. Enjoy the good times, friends. Because, as we’ve seen, they can be fleeting and then you’ll be left wishing you enjoyed them more as they were happening.

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or via e-mail: ShoesOnSports@gmail.com

 

Collins Again Inept On National Stage

After an abomination of tactical performance in the World Series, Terry Collins was rewarded with managing the National League All-Stars in last night’s game in San Diego.

I’ve gone into enough detail in the past on my feelings on the deficiencies of Collins. He was supposed to be the guy to just steward a ship of kids until they were ready for a real manager. He’s proven time and again that he’s not the guy to guide this team to the next level and last year’s ride into the World Series was more in spite of him than because of him.

But last night should have been too easy to screw up.

And it would have been, too…for everybody except Terry Collins.

The Mets are a franchise with very little in terms of positive history. So when there’s an opportunity to add something fun to the ledger for both the team and the fans it has to be capitalized upon.

While the defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals were once again stealing the headlines, Clueless Collins did his best to hide his players, his team and leave his fanbase frustrated and disappointed by not inserting either of the available Mets players (Bartolo Colon and Jeurys Familia) into last night’s All-Star game.

Collins apparently had his script for if/when to use both players, but – shockingly – the game didn’t play out like the one he had written on paper and what should have been a proud moment for Familia to participate in his first and Colon in probably his last All-Star event instead ended with a lot of angry people turning off TVs in New York after being unable to cheeer for their own players.

Look, I get it: The All-Star Game is a pretty pointless exhibition and at least nobody on the Mets had an arm amputated during the 7th inning stretch. But this was supposed to be a moment for the Mets to once again take another step as one of the better franchises in the league in front of a national audience. It was supposed to be a moment for fans to be excited to cheer on THEIR All-Stars from THEIR defending National League champions.

Instead, it became a giant “fuck you” from Tone-Deaf Terry to his fanbase. Collins is a baseball lifer and this blatant exhibition of ignorance from the man is abhorrent. The reports from the Mets’ beat writers after the game had both Familia and Noah Syndergaard both unwilling to give interviews and apparently the mood amongst the players was rather dour.

It would take the Mets to fuck up such an easy opportunity to do something easy and great for the franchise and fanbase. Thanks to Terrible Terry they were able to not only do it, but do it spectacularly.

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or email: ShoesOnSports@gmail.com

Book Report: Ron Darling’s “Game 7, 1986”

I don’t read half as much as I’d like to or as much as I think I should. Books anyway. I mean, as a population, we probably do more reading now than ever before because of the internet, but we’ve also become uninterested with anything that can’t be done within a few minutes.

So, recently, I’ve kind of made more of an effort to read more actual books and started with “Game 7, 1986: Failure And Triumph In The Biggest Game Of My Life” by Ron Darling (with Daniel Paisner).

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It took me longer to get to this book than it really should have because the book’s target audience is essentially me, but once I finally made the decision to read this, I was able to fly through it in just a few sessions. I had read Darling’s earlier book, “The Complete Game” a few years before after winning a copy in a contest on MetsMerized and came into this book with a built-in appreciation for Darling’s thoughtfulness as he tends to dig a little deeper than normal sports cliches and give the reader (as he does his listeners on SNY and TBS during the season) a deeper and better understanding of what is happening and why.

Darling was the starting pitcher for the Mets on Monday, October 27, 1986 when the Mets last clinched a World Series title in a game that has become mostly forgotten about due to the extraordinary circumstances that surrounded the classic Game 6 of the series just two days before.

He acknowledges that fact early-on and proceeds to take you on a roller coaster ride inside the head of a young athlete getting ready to have the seminal moment of his career. From late in Game 6 where pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre tells him to head home to get a good night’s rest for the next day’s deciding game (which was subsequently postponed because of rain) you have a front row seat for the whirlwind of thoughts, preperation, worries and dreams that fill a man’s head when the success of a team and a city are all put on his right arm.

But, whereas you normally get the Disney ending with these types of stories, Darling wasn’t up to the challenge on this night and was pulled from the game early while putting his team at a three-run disadvantage.

You never get the feeling that moment was too big for him, but just that the Red Sox were well-prepared and had made adjustments as this was Darling’s third start in the series. It’s the setting every kid has dreamed about. He’s front and center during the deciding game of the World Series, but there would be no walk-off homer or 9th inning strikeout as the dream collapses around him.

I found this to be new and fresh and – to a point – almost awkward in that you’re eavesdropping on Darling’s private moment as he admits his failing and what he was going through on the mound as he realizes that things are caving in around him. It’s a game that even in victory has haunted him for 30 years as he (and everybody else back then) just assumed he would get another chance; that the Mets would be returning to the World Series every year, but that never came to pass. A combination of trades, drugs and injuries clipped the mid-80s Mets dynasty after just one glorious season and while the team that night in 1986 did come back to win, Darling was left with a giant “what if” that he was never able to properly vanquish throughout the remainder of his career.

I loved this book as it provided some incredible detail into one of the most significant games in Mets history along with a ribbon of hindsight after 30 years that will make you want to re-watch Game 7 almost immediately after completing the book. Yes, I did re-watch the game and yes, putting the context of the book with the body language and facial expressions given off by Darling until he was pulled in the 4th inning.

Recommended highly for Mets and baseball fans, but also for all sports fans who want to get a feel of what it’s like to be on the biggest stage in a profession and how one of the athletes at the center of the focus dealt with the pressures and expectations.

No Move May Be Right Move For Mets

David Wright is done for at least the remainder of 2016, Lucas Duda is waiting for his back to regenerate into one piece again, Travis d’Arnaud always seems a strong gust of wind away from another extended stay on the DL, Neil Walker has battled back spasms, Michael Conforto is nursing a tender wrist, Juan Lagares has hit the DL because of a bum thumb and Wilmer Flores just took an up-and-in fastball off his hand and wrist and is day to day.

The Mets are and have been dropping like flies except flies seem to have a longer life-expectancy these days.

Following up a World Series appearance, the Mets were expected to once again compete for the National League crown and now find themselves in a state of limbo, not knowing who will flush out a lineup or in what position they’ll do it in.

While there’s always a need to have quality depth players on your bench, it is simply impossible to stock the quantity of depth needed due to the volume of injuries the team has suffered. Maybe you think Sandy Alderson and company should have had a better feel for just how affected David Wright would be by his spinal stenosis and should have had a better fallback option, but truth be told, there’s not a team in all of baseball that would have sufficient stock in the cupboard to replace all the of the names listed and not miss a beat.

Fans and media alike have clammored for the team to make a trade, but not just any trade. They want the same type of impact deal that brought Yoenis Cespedes here from the Tigers last year. The cost was a steep, but fair price of a couple of prospects headlined by Michael Fulmer who – now in the Detroit rotation – is currently turning in one of the strongest rookie campaigns in the league, but it’s hard to get upset over a trade that, essentially, got you to the World Series.

So, it’s easy then, right? Make a few calls, get a brand new superstar to Queens and get back to the World Series. Not quite.

While fans are salivating over the possibilities, the Mets are hamstrung but a combination of roster construction, contracts, availability and a thin amount of desired minor league prospects due to the dual-barrel end game of major-league promotions and trades over the last 12 months.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets
Kelly Johnson: the super-utility player the team hoped Wilmer Flores could be. Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Truth be told, the Mets may have to settle for another player cut from the Kelly Johnson cloth in lieu of the superstar the fans want to see. Johnson isn’t the sexy, game changer you necessarily want, he’s a solid major leaguer, familiar with the team after last season and provides flexibility of being able to play multiple positions while swinging a left-handed bat.

Let’s go over some of the options being bandied about to see which, if any, make sense for the Mets:

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Jonathan Lucroy, C Milwaukee Brewers

With Travis d’Arnaud looking more fragile every minute and Kevin Plawecki being unable to hit or throw at the big league level, the case for Lucroy has gone from “not even a thought” in March to “you know, that would be a nice upgrade” now. The problem is that Lucroy would be a huge upgrade for a lot of teams and is signed through the end of next year at a very reasonable dollar figure. The Brewers are going to want a huge return on him and it would start with the names “Syndergaard” or “Matz” and not “Wheeler” as a lot of people seem to think. The Mets are out of this before it even begins.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
Longoria is the face of franchise no matter how unstable.

Evan Longoria, 3B Tampa Bay Rays

Longoria is basically the only homegrown player in Rays history that hasn’t been traded before hitting his arbitration years which makes him the all-time greatest Ray ever. After down years because of injuries and declining power numbers, Longoria has had a bit of a resurgence this year. Longoria’s quiet, confident demeanor, bat and plus glove would be a perfect replacement for recently-deceased David Wright. Except for a few things: Wright isn’t dead, Longoria has already shown signs of decline, the Rays would expect a hefty haul back and Longoria begins a contract extension next season that has him signed through 2023 at a cool $100m. With Wright sure to attempt to return next season added to the cost in players and dollars, Longoria is a certain pass.

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Jay Bruce, RF Cincinnati Reds

Whereas the slugging outfielder made a lot of sense of the Mets when they were supposedly close to landing him last year, the same cannot be said for him now. Bruce has had a terrific 2016 thus far, but with Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares (now injured, but we’ll wait to see if he’ll need surgery as well) already in the fold, the Mets don’t have an obvious spot for Bruce to play. The Reds will most likely move Bruce this season and his value hasn’t been this high in a while. Another case where the cost would be prohibitive for the Mets with a thinning farm system.

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Jose Reyes, SS Colorado Rockies (only in name, will be a free agent in a few days)

Look, I get it. We all used to love Jose Reyes. Remember we all did that “Jose, Jose, Jose” chant? So good. Remember when Professor Reyes taught us Spanish between innings? AZUCAR! That is not Jose Reyes anymore. As much as we would all like to think we’d be getting that fun loving, top of the order sparkplug from yesteryear back, Reyes is a slowed, flawed player at this point who probably shouldn’t be playing shortstop any longer. Oh, and there’s that whole beating up his wife thing hanging over him now too. So, no. No, no, no, no, no, no. No.

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Mike Trout, OF Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

We get Trout for a package of like Eric Campbell, TJ Rivera and Eric Goeddel. Who says no?

But seriously, the point of this is that the Mets are lot more likely to see a deal for a Luis Valbuena or Yangervis Solarte than they are a game changer. Even then, are those the types of players worth deal prospects for? In my opinion, we may be better off playing the cards already dealt and hoping the team can just stay close while guys work their way back.

I’ve emphasized all season about how important it is to stay close and beat the teams you’re expected to beat because of the huge discrepancy between good and bad in the NL. Last year, the Mets had a chance to pull away in a weak division and the front office went out and got Cespedes who single-handedly carried us through the remainder of the regular season and turned it into a race we won by quite a few strides.

I’m not protesting against a deal, merely stating that the costs may be prohibitive against making one. Either way, with Sandy’s history and track record, I do believe that if there is a deal out there to be made, he’ll do it. He understands the pulse and sees that the Nationals can’t just be expected to fall apart this year. Right now the team has done a pretty impressive job of keeping their heads above water despite the weak lineup they’re sending out on most nights and it’s a wonder that they ever thought they’d be able to have a chance this year without Cespedes in the middle of the order.

Hopefully, they can keep that up until Lucas Duda returns and then make a good evalution of where things stand going into the deadline. The window for the Mets to be a top-level team is open now and they need to capitalize while they can. But they shouldn’t empty out what’s left of their farm system to plug a square peg into a round hole.

 

Contact: ShoesOnSports@gmail.com, Twitter: @MaximusSexPower

Noah Syndergaard: Hero or Menace?!

What in the blue and orange fuck went on last night?

What started as a wonderful tribute to the last Mets team to win a World Series championship devolved into a sideshow of rulebook quoting, chest pounding, embarrassing baseball that will taint the great moment of seeing such an awesome 1986 team reunion beforehand and turn last night into “The Utley Game, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo”.

If you’re reading this, you know the deal. Last season, professional douchenozzle, Chase Utley, broke the leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada during the NLDS with what wasn’t so much of a slide as much as it was some kind of rolling tackle that had plenty of intent to injure and was beyond dirty.

MLB ended up changing a rule regarding the process of sliding into the bag during the offseason to help protect middle infielders largely because of the blowback of the Utley slide. The rule is even commonly known as “The Utley Rule”. For his part, Chase Utley received a suspension that was later rescinded by MLB which meant that for doing his part in deliberately injuring another player to the point that they were forced to modify a rule, Utley received zero punishment.

Fast-forward to last night where Noah Syndergaard threw behind Utley and was immediately ejected by home plate umpire, Adam Hamari which directly led to an embarrassing Mets loss by the score of 9-1 to the Dodgers on the strength of two homers (including a grand slam) from Utley, of course.

Twitter and the baseball media erupted in the immediate aftermath that featured the hottest of takes from all angles that way anybody with any blog ever (hey, boo 😉 ) could pump their clicks and get in on the action as quick as possible.

Look, you can get facts and quotes from any number of bloggers and actual reporters. If you’re here, you are interested in what I have to say. Obviously, Thor is my guy. He’s my favorite current player on the team so I’m not without bias, but I have a really hard time believing that pitch “just got away” as he says. His control is far too good to just uncork a fastball that wildly.

So, figuring the pitch was purposeful, I like the fact that it was thrown behind Utley. It was away from him enough to never put him in danger, but sent a message at the same time. That’s fine. Nobody gets hurt and we move on. It certainly seemed like Utley understood (as he really always does, credit where its due) and was preparing himself for the next pitch as Thor was being ejected.

I have a problem with the ejection. As Utley’s slide was done with purpose and reckless intent to injure (nowhere near the bag and didn’t even slide so much as crouching chopblock), this pitch didn’t hit or injure. A warning would have sufficed and everybody could have been done with this. The ejection just further reinforces the small portion of people’s beliefs that the league is out to fuck the Mets (which I disagree with, but people say what they say). Ejection without warning basically just poured lighter fluid on a fire almost ready to expire.

Finally, and this needs to be said, the Mets came off completely bush league last night. Utley is a dick and always has been. Yeah, I get it. But if you were going to retaliate, why the fuck did you wait so goddamn long?

I understand not doing anything in the remainder of the NLDS. Stakes are too high. But if you wanted to do something, it should have been in LA last week where you played a four-game series and not wait until you had the coziness of a sellout crowd in your home park to try to impress the group of fiery brawlers from yesteryear who were being honored.

The 86 Mets pissed off everybody and for good reason, but the times and game have changed. Whether Collins called for this or if it was something Syndergaard did on his own, the fact is that it makes the Mets look like a group of whiners who then – poetically – got their shit pushed in by Utley anyway.

Noah Syndergaard is too talented – and too important to this team – to risk putting in a situation where someone can charge the mound seeking retribution and rip his right arm clear out of the shoulder socket. There is no reason to create an issue when the time has passed.

The Mets are a team that could and should be competing for a playoff spot and giving away games because of some misguided grudge isn’t going to do anybody any favors.

If this was on Syndergaard, then he needs to be pulled aside immediately. We love his talent, his personality and the way he’s able to project the aura of warrior one minute and fun-loving fan of life the next. But this episode makes him look less like Thor the future king and more like the petulant child who attacks Jotunheim and the Frost Giants in a fit of misplaced pride.

We can argue all day about the ejection being warranted or not, but the sad truth is that the Mets and Noah Syndergaard put themselves in a situation they didn’t need to be in and got son’d for it.

Contact: Twitter: @MaximusSexPower or via email: elshoeshatemail@msn.com

Ballpark Experience: Cleveland’s Progressive Field

Sorry I’ve been quiet for the past week. Between traveling and work and basic adulting, I haven’t had much time to come here and give you my expert analysis of a sudden offensive juggernaut of a baseball team.

One of my favorite things about baseball is the ballparks. Each stadium has its own quirks and personality that make it distinctly different than the other parks around the league. Whereas an arena housing basketball or hockey or even a football stadium are pretty much interchangable, baseball stadiums stand out for their idiosyncrasies and can become – to people like me – tourist attractions.

Each year, I try to get to a few new stadiums. Usually, it’s just a day trip so as to not burn vacation time from work, but in cities where I have friends or there’s other things I’d like to do, I can and have made it a couple of days. I don’t always pick my visits just to see the Mets, but I will admit that I do make more of an effort to see them just because it gives me more reason to be invested in the game.

That being said, a weekend series in Cleveland against the Indians immediately caught my attention when the schedule was released. How often do the Mets play in fucking Cleveland? It seemed like a mighty good excuse to knock Progressive Field off my list.

A few weeks ago, I grabbed a great seat off StubHub. Three rows off the field on the Mets side, just a couple of sections down the right-field line. I paid $47 once taxes and fees and all that bullshit were included. That’s pretty good value.

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Gates only open one hour before first pitch except for the Right Field Gate which opens two hours early. It gives you the opportunity to catch what’s left of batting practice, but most of the ballpark is still closed off to foot traffic and you’re pretty limited to just the Right Field bleachers and food court area behind.

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I was one of the first people in the building and was able to grab a spot against the rail and saw basically all of Mets’ warmups. The fun part about this is meeting all of the other Mets fans who made the trip as everybody was more than happy to share their story of where they traveled from, where in NY they or their family was originally from and how they still keep in tune to the team while living in another market. Obviously, I was too happy to join in these reindeer games as living in Tampa, FL makes me ready-made for these types of conversations.

Now besides the game, the best part is exploring the culinary offerings provided by each park. I contacted the one person I know in Cleveland, Impact Wrestling Knockout, Marti Bell. She is actually a pretty frequent attendee at Progressive Field, but alas, would not be here this night because she was actually in Tampa to work for Shine Wrestling that night. Irony at its finest. But she did tell me that I had to eat at a spot called Melt and that I would thank her for it.

As batting practice wound down, I headed behind the seats in RF to what is apparently a newly-designed food court and found the Melt stand. After perusing the menu for a minute, I went with a BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese and a beer.

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I very rarely say nice things about Marti in public, but this was the best advice she has ever given me. This was goddamn delicious and, there was almost zero spillage from the bread which is a big deal when having a sandwich. In the words of Jeff Spicoli, “awesome, totally awesome.”

OK, so back to the stadium. Progressive Field has the look of being smaller than almost any other stadium I’ve been to. The outfield doesn’t seem very spacious, but the building has a nice, homely feel where the seats seem to hover over the field allowing for a lot of good views throughout various sections.

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I found the Indians fans to be very friendly. I kind of expected that as there’s no rivalry between the teams, but I was able to be engaged in night-long conversation as basically anybody within three rows all jumped in to talk about our run to the Series last year and – especially – the Indians teams of the 90s when they were just a powerhouse.

From what I’ve read online, they’ve done some serious upgrades to concessions since last year and the offerings and beer selections were pretty good. Bathrooms were relatively clean and walking areas were spacious and unconstrictive.

While Progressive Field isn’t one of the better parks I’ve been to, it definitely made for a fun night at a ballgame with reasonable prices on tickets and concessions. The biggest drawbacks are the views and setting (San Francisco is just on another level than everybody else when it comes to that) and the fact that, as an excursion destination, there just is many attractive tourist spots to hit in Cleveland. I did consider going to the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame before my flight the next day, but decided I can see much of the same memorabilia at the various Hard Rock Cafes around the country and ended up going to see a movie to kill time instead.

I give Progressive Field a 5/10. It lacks in aesthetics and has an almost “small-time” vibe to it, but does provide good value for your dollar and features a race between a hot dog with ketchup, a hot dog with mustard and a hot dog with onions that is exactly as creepy as it sounds. I’d recommend it, but it’s not one of the stadiums you have to put on a bucket list.

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Seriously…creepy AF.

 

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or elshoeshatemail@msn.com

 

 

Game 8: Logan Becomes Weapon-X,Terry Collins is Still a Moron

Welcome, everybody, to another Mets recap of the game you read about on 25 other sites first. For that reason – and also because there’s no sense in going into a full blown book report on a very uninspiring game – let’s break down the highlights into list fashion and then I’ll expand upon some things that stuck out.

  • Logan Verrett started in place of Jacob deGrom (who still hasn’t been put on the DL or the Paternity list which means the Mets are, essentially, playing down a man) and was excellent throwing six innings of shutout ball. Verrett has been pretty good when thrown into that spot starter role and it’s great that we were able to get him back from the Rangers last season after losing him in the Rule V Draft.
  • Terry Collins is a bumbling fool who is trying to destroy shoulders and elbows with no regard for humanity. He is the Son of Sam-equivalent for relief pitchers.
  • The Mets again did basically nothing on offense. But they were tremendous at finding not-fun and non-exciting ways of leaving runners in scoring position when they got them there.
  • Last week, Jim Henderson looked like he may have been a shrewd under-the-radar bullpen signing. Yesterday, he looked like his arm was going to fall off.
  • Jeurys Familia pitched in his third straight game, but to make matters even better, was asked to get a five-out save. No big deal.
  • Kevin Plawecki drove in both Mets runs with a late-inning single that felt as if it was never going to happen. Runs are good.

OK, so there we have it and you’re all caught up. But let’s talk Terry Collins. Colactus, The Devourer of Teams. Anybody that knows me knows just how much I disdain Terry Collins. I firmly believe that the team achieved what they did last season in spite of him as opposed to because of him.

He’s shown no ability to manage a bullpen. He’s consistently failed at further developing young position players at the big league level (the pitchers don’t count, that’s all Dan Warthen), he’s been too reliant upon preferred veterans when there’s clearly better options and he’s so stuck to a “script” of how he thinks he should manage a game that he has no ability to adapt and make in-game adjustments to his strategy.

Need examples? How about giving a washed-up Michael Cuddyer three at-bats in game one of the World Series instead of the much more productive Juan Uribe? Or trying to push Steven Matz through a sixth inning in Game Four when he clearly was losing his command through the fifth? And then burning through his two long relievers in Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon to bail out Matz of that same sixth inning so he could go to the storyboarded Addison Reed/Tyler Clippard/Jeurys Familia frame that he had mapped out which saw Clippard unable to find the strike zone and Familia put in a horrible position with men on base in the 8th to try to hold everything together.

Terry Collins’ ideas are held together with bubblegum and hope. And just like Roddy Piper, he’s all outta bubblegum.

After using the past few post-game press conferences telling the fanbase not to worry and to hold off on loading the moving truck to Panic City, Collins himself became the mayor of said city using his bullpen in a way that was both irresponsible and shameful.

After getting six shutout innings out of spot-starter Logan Verrett, Collins elected to bring in reliever Jim Henderson. Before making the Mets out of spring training, Henderson had not pitched in the majors since early in the 2014 season because of shoulder problems. He had been great through his first couple of appearances this season, but the night before had thrown a career-high 34 pitches to get through just one-third of an inning (mostly due to a 16 pitch at-bat to Dee Gordon). Seeing as how this was a day game after a night game and considering Henderson’s injury history, this is absolutely the type of game he should have been sitting out of.

The bullpen has been taxed heavily lately due to Steven Matz’s abysmal outing on Monday, but the Mets had called up Rafael Montero to supply depth to said relief corps. Collins decided against using Montero in what was, at the time, a scoreless game. If it’s a matter of trust (fuck you, Billy Joel) then perhaps Montero shouldn’t have been the man brought in from Las Vegas and the Mets could have gone the Sean Gilmartin route instead.

Henderson’s first pitch was a fastball that clocked in at 89 MPH, far short of the 95 MPH he had been averaging. After a hit and two walks, he was mercifully removed and Hansel Robles and Jerry Blevins got the team out of a bases loaded, no out jam without sacrificing a run.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Collins, intent on setting fire to every reliever in his path called upon Jeurys Familia to record a five-out save in his third consecutive day of pitching. Familia had been a godsend for the Mets last year after inheriting the closer role once Jenrry Mejia failed the first of his 46 drug tests and was dominant. Gary Cohen and Ron Darling in the broadcast booth kept hammering home the point that Familia only gets stronger as he gets more work which pretty much goes against everything we’ve been told about arms, shoulders and elbows over the last few years.

The Mets can simply not afford to lose their closer because an inept manager panicked and felt the need to show fans they “mean business here.”

Thankfully, the team has today off for travel as they head to Cleveland for a weekend interleague match-up with the Indians. To be honest, I’m over the whole novelty of interleague play (which I’ll probably address in a future post), but the one thing I do enjoy is that it gives me a chance to visit a new stadium to see my team instead of watching two teams I otherwise don’t care about.

As long as I’m able to get on my flight tonight, I’ll be there tomorrow for my first visit to Progressive Field which will become my 15th ballpark. Pics and stories to come.

Thanks for reading. Bye, love you, mean it.

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or elshoeshatemail@msn.com