Saturday, December 17, 2016

Joey's Letter To Sandy Claus (2016)

I figured a sandy setting would be appropriate for a letter to Sandy Claus.  Plus, it reminds me of summer and baseball.

Dear Sandy Claus,

Are you there, Sandy?  It's me, Joey Beartran.  You may remember me from the letters I've sent you in each of the last five holiday seasons.  Other teams' fans have gotten some of their wishes already, such as Cardinals fans getting World Series champion center fielder Dexter Fowler under their tree, Boston lovers getting the Sale of the century and ChiSox supporters getting almost every other team's young prospects to fill their ChiStockings.

As for me and my fellow Mets fans, we're not really asking for much this year.  After all, you've given us two consecutive postseason appearances and have us in position to make an unprecedented third straight October run in 2017.  You've also somehow managed to get superstar slugger Yoenis Céspedes to shun other teams' offers not once, but twice, which has made the loss of former Mets farmhand and current American League Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer a little more palatable.

That doesn't mean we wouldn't want a little something extra from you this holiday season.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  We're quite pleased with the riches you've given us on such a tight budget, but at the same time, we're Mets fans.  That means we're never satisfied.

So since I seem to be the only one here writing you a letter, I figure I'd speak on behalf on my fellow Mets fans so that you know what we'd like this year.  Considering that we've all been nice this year - except for Ray Ramirez, who should probably receive a lump of coal in his stocking, just sayin' - I don't think our wishes are all that unreasonable.  Here goes.

What should I ask for?  This would be a pretty inopportune time to get writers' block.

I'd like a trading partner for Jay Bruce.  It's clear that the Mets have a glut of outfielders.  One is the team's best offensive threat (Céspedes), one is supposedly the star of the future (Michael Conforto), one is a former Gold Glove winner (Juan Lagares), one always says hi to me when I'm sitting in my Right Field Reserved seats (Curtis Granderson) and the other is Jay Bruce.  I don't really care who you trade him for.  Trade him for a new head athletic trainer for all I care.  Actually, if you trade Bruce AND the team's current athletic trainer in the same deal, you'd be killing two birds with one stone, which is probably a good thing for the birds because if they weren't killed by that single stone, the trainer might have to take a look at them and that would be a fate worse than death.

I would also like a shutdown bullpen, you know, like the Nasty Boys that helped the Reds win their last championship in 1990 or the relievers that helped propel the Cubs and Indians to the World Series last year.  (I'd mention the Royals' bullpen that led the team to two World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015, but it's a little too soon for me.)  With Jeurys Familia possibly missing some time to start the season due to his domestic violence incident (and he should also get coal for what he did), the Mets will need someone with late inning experience to complement Addison Reed.  I'm well aware that relievers can go from Mariano Rivera domination to Mel Rojas abomination in a matter of minutes, but I trust you to find someone with the talent to fill the hole left by the impending absence of Familia.  Oh, and make sure the guy you get us isn't named Armando or have a second cousin once removed in the Benitez family.

Without question, I want good health for the players who lost time in 2016 due to injuries.  You know, like Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz...  You know what?  Just keep those guys away from the players who managed to stay healthy in 2016 until it's been determined that their injuries aren't contagious.  Though I suppose you wouldn't have to worry about that much with Wright, since he breaks more than wind at a bean burrito eating contest.

I want the Michael Conforto from April 2016 to become the Michael Conforto of every month of the 2017 baseball season.  We've had several one-month wonders in the past.  Does Derek Bell and his red hot start in April 2000 ring a (ahem) bell?  No one expects Conforto to put up the .330/.402/.522 slash line he's produced in 166 career minor league games.  But I do think we should expect more than his .238/.319/.448 performance in 165 contests with the Mets.  Considering that after the 2017 campaign, the Mets won't have Bruce or Granderson on their payroll, Conforto will have to step up to prove that he is going to be a top contributor on this team.  And while I'm at it, can you get Terry Collins to trust him a little more against southpaws?  l know Conforto is probably never going to be a .300 hitter versus left-handed pitchers, but TC has shown as much faith in him against lefties as I have in myself becoming a vegan.  It's time to cut Conforto loose against the world.

Palm trees go with things that are Sandy.  Just hope "Exotic Canadian" isn't a euphemism for Jason Bay.

Speaking of cutting loose, it's time to finally see the Fab Five in action.  I'm talking about having Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler take over this rotation and not let it go until Scott Boras gets Harvey a nine-figure deal to underachieve somewhere else.  Unfortunately, this has yet to happen because Wheeler took a two-year injury sabbatical, Harvey never quite recovered from the ninth inning of Game Five and deGrom and Matz couldn't make 30-plus starts, leaving Syndergaard to do all the heavy lifting in 2016.  And what heavy lifting he did!  Thor basically carried the staff on his back and nearly led them past Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in the Wild Card game.  Imagine if the Mets had several pitchers who could do the same over a full season.  Wait.  They do.  As long as they stay healthy and Yoko Ono doesn't try to break up the band.

I'm a fan of Kelly Johnson.  I really am.  I'm not a fan of losing future major leaguers every time the Mets decide to acquire him during the season.  In 2015, the Mets reeled in Johnson from Atlanta with a package that included John Gant and Robert Whalen.  Both pitchers made it to the majors in 2016 and Gant recorded his first big league victory against the Mets in June.  (It came just three days before my birthday, which was not exactly an ideal gift for me.)  Then after re-signing with the Braves prior to the 2016 campaign, the Mets once again traded for Johnson, sending pitcher Akeel Morris to Atlanta in return for the utility man.  Morris posted a 2.27 ERA for the Braves' Double-A affiliate in 25 appearances following the trade so I wouldn't be surprised if he made it back to the show at some point in 2017.  Therefore, on my wish list, I'd like the Mets to keep Johnson around for the entire 2017 campaign rather than having to sacrifice their young for his services.  We can't keep stuffing the Braves' stockings with so much talent year after year just to get half a season of Kelly Johnson each time.

Finally, I'd like more of those delicious steak frites that you can only find at the Pat LaFrieda joint on the Promenade level.  Why aren't they offered on the field level?  I didn't even know they were an option until we were well into the season.  Also, why was there no Rao's pasta in the Foxwoods Club in 2016 like there was when the area was called the Caesar's Club in previous seasons?  That was my go-to dish when I didn't want to stand in a long line of people who only wanted hot dogs and beer and could have purchased said items from any vendor walking around the ballpark instead of taking up so much space on the line in front of me!  On a related note, I'd also like you to help me control my temper, especially when I'm hungry.

More places in the stadium where these are available would be most welcome.

So that's pretty much what I'm asking you for, Sandy.  Just dump the latest outfielder with the initials J.B. that failed to impress in New York, add a piece or two to the bullpen, keep the players as far away from Ray Ramirez as possible and remind Conforto that his Olympian mom is still the best athlete in the family until he learns how to hit a baseball on a consistent basis.

In addition, all I am saying is don't play Plastic Ono Band music near the starting pitchers and give Kelly Johnson a chance for an entire season.  Oh, and more stands with steak frites around the ballpark and the return of Rao's pasta dishes would be most welcome.  I'm speaking for all Mets fans, of course, not just myself.

Thanks so much for reading my letter, Sandy.  And thank you for what you've done to take this team from a perennial 70-something win squad to a club that has to cancel golf plans in October because playing ball for a title is much more fun than playing with a Titleist ball.

I wish you and your merry little elves a happy holiday season and I can't wait to see what you leave under my tree.  And remember, just because my tree is small doesn't mean you can't put everything I asked for under it.  You're a baseball maverick.  You'll figure out a way.

Love and Shake Shack forever,
Joey Beartran

Hope you get my letter, Sandy Claus.  And my tree really isn't that small; it still towers over me!

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