Saturday, December 30, 2017

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2017

It's the end of another calendar year, Mets fans.  And with just six weeks or so remaining until pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie, it's time to look back and reflect.  No, we're not reflecting on all the injuries that seemed to be Ray Ramirez's fault in the eyes of the fan base.  (Okay, maybe we'll reflect on one or twelve of them.)  We're here to share what was happy and what was crappy about the 2017 season.  And if you followed this season as closely as the Studious Metsimus staff did, you'll probably expect the "happy" part to be as long as a Jeff Wilpon interview and the "crappy" part to be of a similar length as a modernized version of "War and Peace".

You know what?  You may be right about that.

But despite everything that a 70-92 record might suggest, not everything was crappy for Mets fans in 2017.  We got to see the Nationals make another first round exit, which means all of Daniel Murphy's postseason celebrations continue to be with him wearing a Mets uniform.  We also saw the Yankees complete an eighth consecutive season without winning a pennant.  (Hey, we hadn't seen that occur in over two decades.)  And of course, future Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran went out as a champion, winning a World Series ring with the Mets' 1962 expansion mates a full 13 seasons after his epic postseason run with the Astros led to him becoming the greatest free agent signing in Mets history.

As Mets fans, we can take comfort that things other than the Mets can give us pleasure.  Sometimes it's all we have.  And with that, I think it's time to delve into this year's Happy/Crappy recap.  I promise it won't depress you as you read it.  After all, we wouldn't want you to end up wearing a leg boot because of a depression diagnosis.

So what was happy about the 2017 season?


Seriously, what can we look back on and remember as a good thing that happened this past season?

(More crickets, getting louder...)

Anything at all?  Bueller?  Bueller?

(Crickets quieting down, mainly because they're all shaking their heads...)

Okay, so it wasn't easy to find something to be happy about when looking back at the 2017 campaign.  I mean, the team needed a win on the next-to-last day of the season to avoid their first year with fewer than 70 wins since Art Howe's crew "battled" their way to a 66-95 record in 2003.

Everyone except Ray Ramirez got hurt at some point of the season.  I mean, Jay Bruce was traded to Cleveland with almost two months left in the season and still had the third-most plate appearances on the Mets.  Michael Conforto got hurt swinging the bat.  So did Wilmer Flores, who found a way to foul a ball off his face.  Both players appeared to be heading toward career years, as Conforto was on pace to hit 35-plus homers and Flores had already established career highs in home runs (18), batting average (.271), slugging percentage (.488) and OPS (.795) before the invisible magnet in his nose attracted a fastball off his bat.  Even Noah Syndergaard, who was expected to contend for the Cy Young Award, missed the majority of the season recovering from a lat injury.

Hey, but at least he got to woo Mrs. Met on Twitter as part of his all-out war on Mr. Met.

The injuries, as well as the selling off of the team's veteran players (and by veteran, I mean the guys who made the most money and were in the final season of their contracts), allowed the Mets to call up their top two minor league prospects, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith.

Aha!  We've reached the bright side!

Rosario and Smith had flashes of brilliance, but neither took the baseball world by storm, as both posted OBPs south of .300 and OPSs under .700.  Still, Rosario just turned 22 last month and Smith won't be 23 until the anniversary of the Midnight Massacre.  And yet, some people are calling for Smith's days as a Met to be terminated before he's gotten a chance to prove himself.  Why?

The two neophytes combined to produce a .223/.266/.395 slash line, which isn't that for off from Noah Syndergaard's career slash line (.200/.273/.345).  That may not sound impressive, but consider the following.

Rosario gives the Mets speed they desperately need.  The swift Dominican finished second on the team behind Jose Reyes in triples and stolen bases.  If Reyes doesn't return in 2018, Rosario will be the only dependable source for steals and extra-base hits that don't come to a screeching halt at second base.  Plus, he'd be the best candidate to go first-to-third on a single.  Without Reyes and not including Rosario's totals in two months with the team, the Mets would have finished the 2017 campaign with 17 triples and 27 steals.  That's fewer than Lance Johnson had by himself in 1996 (21 triples, 50 SB).  Rosario should become the go-to guy to get the go-go signal from his coaches.

Meanwhile, Smith may have batted .198 with 49 strikeouts in 183 plate appearances, but he was an excellent hitter with runners in scoring position.  On a team that occasionally struggled offensively, Smith batted .283 with an .871 OPS when a teammate was 90 or 180 feet from crossing the plate.  That explains why he drove in 26 runs in those limited plate appearances.  In fact, he was more likely to drive in a run last season than the 110 Million Dollar Man, Yoenis Céspedes, as Smith averaged an RBI every 7.0 plate appearances, while Céspedes drove in a run every 7.6 PA (42 RBI; 321 PA).

All I am saying is give Smith a chance.

That was the good that came out of the 2017 season.  Now it's time for the bad and the ugly.  Can we have some orange and blue toilet paper, please?

Okay, we've gone over the injuries ad nauseum.  We've yet to discuss the pitching staff posting the highest team ERA since 1962, but doing that would just get us ad nauseous.  So let me tell you a story about something that happened with the one team expected to do worse than the Mets in 2018.  I'm talking about the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins have a new co-owner/CEO/gift basket giver.  To protect the not-so-innocent, let's call him Dirk Jitters.  Mr. Jitters was part of a group that purchased the team, then decided to enrage the dozens of Marlins fans in South Florida by trading the one player who made them come out to Marlins Park on a nightly basis; Giancarlo Stanton.  But faster than you can say "most overrated shortstop in the history of baseball", Mr. Jitters also found a way to trade slugger Marcell Ozuna and speedster Dee Gordon and is now supposedly looking to unload the contracts of Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto in this liquidation sale.

One can only imagine what he would have done with Jose Fernandez had he lived.

But Mr. Jitters did also something that was very unexpected.  He attended a town hall in which Marlins season ticket holders were invited to ask questions about the direction the team was taking.  Mr. Jitters calmly answered questions from the gathering of disgruntled fans, including Marlins Man, who left his seat behind home plate at a nationally televised road game to attend the meeting.

In doing so, Mr. Jitters was able to address the paying customers in person and made him more than just a guy in a suit with a closet full of gift baskets.  Which means he's already done more as a Marlins executive than the Wilpons have done with Mets fans.

Dirk Jitters has more balls than both Wilpons combined.

When was the last time you say Papa Smirk and Little Jeffy address the media or the team's fans?  They don't need to.  That's why they hired Sandy Alderson.  The Wilpons are the most hands-off owners in baseball except when someone wants to get their hands on their piggy banks.  To most fans, they're just urban legends as most of the team's supporters have never seen them in person.

The Studious Metsimus staff once attended a similar gathering of season ticket holders in 2013, which allowed fans to ask questions to members of the front office.  Alderson was there.  So were his merry men (John Ricco, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi).  Who wasn't there, you might ask?

Fred, Jeff and Saul.

The Mets' owners once had no problems giving out money to the top free agents and to re-sign their own players.  They gave newly-retired world champion Carlos Beltran a seven-year, $119 million contract.  They traded for a guy currently on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, Johan Santana, then proceeded to sign him to a six-year, $137.5 million extension.  Then a con man "made off" with their money and apparently their public appearances as well.

As long as New York keeps signing low-risk, high-reward players for pennies on the dollar and get low performance and high injury rates from these players, the fans will continue to revolt.  They'll continue to come to the ballpark (blame the food) and watch the games on SNY (blame Gary, Keith and Ron), but they'll always be figuratively throwing darts at photos of the Wilpons.  Maybe not so figuratively in some cases.

With little chance of the club acting like a large-market team and with the owners continuing to avoid breaking open their piggy banks for a proven commodity in his prime (Céspedes notwithstanding), the fans might have to endure a lot more of the crappy before the happy returns to Citi Field.

And that's it for 2017.  For most Mets fans, the year couldn't come to an end any quicker.  For the cast of crew of Studious Metsimus, we're not ready to give up on the year just yet.  At least not until we thank those who inspire, educate and amuse us.

Respected and long-running blogs such as A Gal For All Seasons, Faith and Fear in Flushing, Mets Merized Online, MetsMinors.Net, Amazin' Avenue, Metstradamus, Remembering Shea, The Daily Stache, Mets360, Rising Apple, Mets Plus, Good Fundies, MetSilverman, Converted Mets Fan and Mets Daddy, just to name a few (or 15, to be exact) always have interesting stories to share, day or night.  Check them out some time.  I'd say "tell 'em Ed sent you" but I'm not sure all of them know who I am.

From all of us here at the corporate office of Studious Metsimus, which is quite literally a desk with a computer, an iPhone and a cat who swipes at us whenever we need to use "his" bathroom, we'd like to thank you for your continued support of this site and wish you a safe and happy New Year.  And by "we", I mean Ed Leyro (the dude at the computer), Joey Beartran (the roving reporter/culinary expert with the iPhone) and Taryn "The Coop" Cooper (the chick getting swiped by the cat).

And remember, Mets fans.  It's not how you play the game.  It's how much money you saved by not signing the top free agents on the market and hoping to get similar production from lesser players coming off a subpar season, then hoping to get a game-winning single from them once a month.  (This paragraph was approved by Fred and Jeff Wilpon.)

Hey, Dirk Jitters?  If you could get rid of this monstrosity in Marlins Park, you'd be doing your fans a great service.

No comments: