Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2015

Another year has come and gone, Mets fans.  And for the first time since 2008, we're not saying goodbye to a year in which our favorite team had more losses than wins.  Does that mean this recap will be more happy than crappy?  Not exactly, especially if you've been following the goings-on in the National League East over the last few days.

The 2015 season began with Mets fans hoping the team would play their first-ever meaningful game in September at Citi Field and ended with the team playing their first-ever game in November in any of its three home stadiums.  In between, we saw new arrivals (Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Michael Conforto), some departures (Kirk Nieuwenhuis left, came back and then left again) and some arrivals who departed with dignity and class (we hardly knew ye, Michael Cuddyer).

It was also the year Yoenis Cespedes gave us two memorable months and no one had any memory of Dillon Gee pitching for the team.  What else happened?  Let's see.  Daniel Murphy deep-sixed the Dodgers and Cubs.  Jeurys Familia became a lights-out closer who got lit up to close out the season.  Matt Harvey came back and then became the Pedro Martinez to Terry Collins's Grady Little in the World Series.  The Mets got no-hit by a player who had five career wins at the time and by another player who had two eye colors.  And oh yeah, there were three National League teams that had to supply with Mets with champagne and the extended use of the road clubhouse for party purposes.

Is that all?  Not exactly.  Here's more of what made us all happy in 2015 and what made us feel crappy.  As usual, let's all get happy first.

The Mets ripped off 11 consecutive victories in April, tying a franchise record.  When the streak began, New York was three games out of first place.  Eleven victories later, they led the N.L. East by 4½ games.  All 11 wins came at the expense of the Braves, Phillies and Marlins - teams that combined to go 201-285 during the 2015 campaign.  A non-believer in the Mets (let's call them Nationals fans) might say that anyone could have won that many games in a row against those three teams.  A believer (let's call them intelligent baseball fans) would say that one of the reasons Atlanta, Philadelphia and Miami had such poor records was because the Mets pounded them into oblivion early on, giving them no hope to be competitive for the remainder of the season.

Eric Campbell started more games at third base than David Wright.  Kevin Plawecki was behind the plate more times than Travis d'Arnaud.  The team's closer at the beginning of the season (Jenrry Mejia) was suspended not once, but twice, for the same drug.  Juan Lagares replaced his Gold Glove with one made of stone.  Michael Cuddyer reminded us of Jason Bay minus the concussion excuse.  Campbell, John Mayberry, Darrell Ceciliani, Danny Muno and Johnny Monell combined to have nearly 500 plate appearances.  And the Mets still won 90 games.  Just imagine what they could have done had they been healthy, made better decisions on which prescriptions to pick up at Walgreen's, and not been so dependent on Quadruple-A players.

Generation KO delivered a knockout blow every time one of its members took the mound.  Defending rookie of the year Jacob deGrom was better as a sophomore than he was as a Mets freshman.  Matt Harvey showed no ill effects from sitting out a year to recover from Tommy John surgery.  Noah Syndergaard was in character as Thor for the entire season, dropping the hammer on opposing hitters.  And Steven Matz made it back home, bringing his exuberant Grandpa Bert along for the ride to cheer him on after every victory.

The Mets entered uncharted waters in late July when Sandy Alderson decided to be a buyer at the trade deadline for the first time in his five-year tenure as the team's general manager.  First, he brought in Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to be super subs.  Then he was hip to be square, deciding to keep the emotional Wilmer Flores, while balking at Carlos Gomez and his medical records.  Finally, as the clock approached midnight in Moscow (that's 4:00pm in the Eastern Time Zone) on July 31, the cold war being staged between Alderson and rival general managers reached a truce when Tigers G.M. Dave Dombrowski agreed to trade Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets for top pitching prospect Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa.  The stage had been set for a magical summer at Citi Field.

Once the Mets swept the Nationals at a raucous Citi Field, then repeated the feat at Nationals Park a month later, it was a foregone conclusion that the Mets were going to win the N.L. East crown for only the sixth time in franchise history.  And when Daniel Murphy put the team on his shoulders in the division series and league championship series, the Mets played their way to an improbable pennant.

And that's when things got crappy...

The Kansas City Royals remembered all too well how close they came to winning it all in 2014.  This time, they would make sure no Mets lead was safe.  And in fact, the Mets led in all five World Series games and had the lead going to the eighth inning in four of the five contests.  But through poor fielding, a lack of hitting in the late innings and Jeurys Familia doing something completely un-Familia-r (blowing late leads), the Mets couldn't ride their October momentum to a World Series championship.

And once they lost Game Five on November 1, the dominoes started to fall.  Jon Niese was traded to Pittsburgh for Neil Walker.  Wilmer Flores lost his starting job to Asdrubal Cabrera, who had a Wilmer Flores-type season at the plate in 2015 but is six years older and is costing the Mets an extra eight million dollars-plus in 2016.  But hey, at least Bartolo Colon is back to provide comic relief at the plate.

Speaking of walking up to the plate, who will replace Murphy and Cespedes's production in 2016?  With Murphy gone to the Nationals and Cespedes gone fishing for a new team, the Mets have lost the man who tied for the team lead in RBI in 2015 (Murphy) and the neon-sleeved savior who made everyone forget about Eric Campbell and his clueless cohorts.  Will Walker and Cabrera be able to replace them in the hearts of Mets fans, and more importantly, in the stat sheets of those same fans?

Finally, the Mets acquired Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Lagares in center field.  Maybe Sandy Alderson goofed and thought De Aza's last name began with a lower case D and wanted to corner the market on similarly named players (he already has d'Arnaud and deGrom on the team).  But other than the fact that De Aza was probably cheaper than Denard Span, Gerardo Parra or Max Venable and was more likely to sign a one-year deal, why the fudge was he the guy targeted to be Lagares's platoon partner?  De Aza's dWAR hasn't been above zero since 2011 and he's started a total of 13 games in center field since the end of the 2013 season, or eight more games than Darrell Ceciliani started in center for the Mets last year alone and a baker's dozen more than you and I started.

I hope Sandy Alderson knows something we don't.  Then again, in 2015, he had all the right answers to all the question marks surrounding the team, even if he had to cough and clear his throat ten times before uttering each answer.

And there you have it, Mets fans.  You now know what was happy about 2015 and what was crappy about it.  Then again, if you've been following the Mets as carefully as the Studious Metsimus staff has over the past few years, you probably didn't need a 2,000-word blog post to tell you something you already knew.

One thing you may not have known is that our staff is heavily inspired by other Mets blogs.  And as we do every year, we'd like to give a shout-out to those sites in appreciation of their hard work and to thank them for not using a teddy bear as a roving reporter/culinary expert.  We'd like to think we've cornered the market with that.  So give a hand and show your support to each of the following Mets sites: 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, Kranepool Society, Mets Police, MetSilverman, Converted Mets Fan and Mets Daddy.

On that note, we'd like to wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.  And by "we", we're talking about Ed Leyro (that's the guy pushing the word count of this post up near Bartolo Colon's cholesterol level), Joey Beartran (the aforementioned roving reporter/culinary expert), Iggy Beartran (your source for all things related to Cole Hamels) and Taryn "The Coop" Cooper (she's just here so she won't get fined).

And remember, Mets fans, if you see a team celebrating on an opposing team's field after recording the final out of the game, it doesn't always have to be Chris Heston or Max Scherzer celebrating a no-hitter.  Nor does it have to be the Kansas City Royals whooping it up as a World Series winner for the first time in 30 years.  Sometimes it might be a team decked in blue and orange celebrating a division title, division series victory or perhaps even a pennant.

Thanks so much for your support!  See you next year!

See, players celebrating on the field sometimes ARE the Mets.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dave Henderson, Who Nearly Beat the Mets in the 1986 World Series, Dies at 57

Dave Henderson (July 2, 1958 - December 27, 2015)

It was the tenth inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series.  The Mets and Red Sox were tied, 3-3.  And Dave Henderson stepped up to the plate against Mets reliever Rick Aguilera.  What happened next shocked Mets fans everywhere, as Henderson took Aguilera deep, running backwards to first base as the ball sailed over the left field fence to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.

One of the reasons why the Red Sox were in the World Series in the first place was because Henderson had supplied another dramatic home run in the American League Championship Series against the California Angels.  With the Angels one strike away from winning the first pennant in team history, Henderson hit a two-run homer off closer Donnie Moore to give the Red Sox a one-run lead.  Now Henderson had given Boston a one-run lead against the Mets in the World Series, with the Red Sox needing one scoreless inning from the bullpen to wrap up the team's first championship since 1918.

Well, we all know what happened next.  And because of the Mets' improbable two-out rally in the bottom of the tenth and their 8-5 victory in Game Seven two nights later, Dave Henderson's home run heroics just became part of the story instead of the biggest moment in Red Sox history.

Incredibly, the home run by Henderson in Game Six was his third of the postseason - he also homered in Boston's Game Two victory over the Mets - after hitting just one home run in 36 games for the Red Sox during the 1986 regular season following his trade from the Seattle Mariners.

Henderson, who was the first player ever drafted by the Mariners in 1977, played 14 years in the big leagues, earning MVP votes in 1988 and 1991 as a member of the Oakland A's and making his only A.L. All-Star team in 1991.  His teams made the postseason four times and he played in the World Series each time, losing the Fall Classic with the Red Sox in 1986 and the A's in 1988 and 1990.  He was also a member of the 1989 World Series champion A's.

From 1988 to 1991, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson (who returned to Oakland in 1989) were the stars of the team.  But had advanced metrics existed then, more people would have noticed the contributions of Dave Henderson, whose 20.7 WAR from 1988 to 1991 was higher than anyone on the team, including the aforementioned Canseco (20.1 WAR), Henderson (19.5 WAR) and McGwire (13.5 WAR).

Henderson was a key contributor to each pennant-winning team he played for, as evidenced by his .298/.376/.570 career slash line in the playoffs.  Half of his 36 postseason hits went for extra bases (ten doubles, one triple, seven homers) and he drove in 20 runs in 121 postseason at-bats.  And most importantly for Mets fans, he batted .400 (10-for-25) against New York in the 1986 World Series, making a case for World Series MVP (which NBC reported had gone to Bruce Hurst prior to the Mets' miracle comeback) had the Red Sox held on to win the title.

Earlier today, Dave Henderson passed away from cardiac arrest at the young age of 57.  His death came one month after receiving a kidney transplant.

Dave Henderson may not have been a Hall of Fame player.  He was barely an All-Star.  But his contributions for all the teams he played for will never be forgotten, especially when those teams needed him the most.  And had it not been for an improbable rally at Shea Stadium on October 25, 1986, Henderson's name would always remain in the minds of Mets fans who would still be hoping to see the team win its second championship.

Rest in peace, Dave Henderson.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Joey's Letter To Sandy Claus (2015)

Is this where I deliver mail to Sandy Claus?

Dear Sandy Claus,

This is Joey Beartran once again, writing my fifth letter to you in as many holiday seasons.  I see other teams have written asking for stocking stuffers already.  I'm glad some of them got lumps of coal in their stockings, like the Giants, who got Jeff Samardzija as their main gift, even though he led the league last year by giving up more hits, home runs and earned runs than any other pitcher.  It serves them right after their fans invade Citi Field year after year, making it uncomfortable for Mets fans to enjoy any games against San Francisco.

Sometimes people just ask for things at the holidays, not once considering that it truly is better to give than it is to receive.  But I'm going to do a little of both, hoping that you'll appreciate that I'm not like all those other people, especially those who have 27 rings, ask you every year for a 28th, and then when you don't bring it to them, they constantly remind you about those 27 rings they already do have.  (I won't say who they are, but they really do yank my chain.)

So I hope you have a little bit of time on your hands, Mr. Claus, because as you already know from my previous letters to you, my missives are never just a few words long.  Sit back, have some cookies and milk, and get ready for a letter that's all nice and never naughty - kind of like me!

The beginning of a masterpiece.

I'd like a center fielder who can split time with Juan Lagares, especially if Lagares's arm is still kaput.  It would also help if this center fielder could find a way to get on base with a little more regularity.  I mean, Lagares's career OBP is .297, which is just barely higher than Denard Span's .287 lifetime batting average.  (Span also has a .352 OBP in eight big league seasons.)  Now I'm not saying you should put Span in the Mets' stocking.  Ah, who am I kidding?  Of course I want Span on the team.  And I'm not just saying that because he gets on base and steals bases (he swiped 31 bags in 2014 and has had three other seasons with 20+ steals).  I'm also not saying it because he bats left-handed which would allow him to be part of a righty-lefty platoon with Lagares.  I'm saying it because he absolutely KILLS THE METS!!  Did you know he's a lifetime .311 hitter vs. New York?  Did you also know that for a guy with little power, he has five home runs against the Mets, even though he's never hit more than three homers against any other team?  You better know that, because Sandy Claus is supposed to know everything!  Get me Span for the holidays and I'll be a happy bear.

I'd also like some better defense by the middle infield.  Last year, Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores got most of the playing time at second and short, respectively.  I know they combined for 60 doubles and 30 homers last season, but they only produced a 2.2 WAR between them, mainly because their defense left a lot to be desired.  The new double play combo in Flushing (Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera) almost doubled that with their respective teams last season, as Walker and Cabrera combined for a 4.1 WAR in 2015.  They're not going to win Gold Gloves out there, but they also won't make bone-headed plays.  Of course, just because they were serviceable last year doesn't guarantee anything this year.  Both Walker and Cabrera are in their 30s, so be sure to give them proper rest by having 26-year-old Ruben Tejada play for them every once in a while.

Once thing I definitely want is for Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler to be the second coming of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Bobby Ojeda and David Cone.  The 1969 and 1973 teams both had Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, with the '69 team adding Gary Gentry and the '73 squad having Jon Matlack, but neither team had a fourth starter who gave them 25+ starts.  Meanwhile, the 1986 team didn't have David Cone yet and used Rick Aguilera as a fifth starter.  Aguilera was wild in the strike zone and allowed too many hits and home runs.  Only the 1988 team with Doc, Ronnie, El Sid, Bobby O and Coney had no weaknesses in the starting rotation, which was exemplified by the team's league-leading 2.91 ERA and 1,100 strikeouts.  Once Wheeler returns to the rotation in June, the 2016 pitching staff could rival the '88 staff as the franchise's all-time best when you consider all five starters.  I'm counting on you, Sandy Claus, to make sure none of our pitchers gets traded.  We need to keep our stars.

Speaking of stars, I'd like some Star Wars toys under my tree.  Not because I want to play with them, but because I want to keep them in the box in pristine condition.  That way, I can sell them next October when the Mets return to the postseason and the money I make from those sales can help me buy playoff tickets.  Did you see what World Series tickets cost a few months ago?  It was certainly more than an arm, a leg and a paw, that's for sure!

$225 for a World Series ticket.  Secondary market was much higher.  I almost had to skip a few meals so I could afford it.

While I'm on the topic of collectibles, I'd like it if you could use your powers as the almighty Sandy Claus to get the team to offer more than 15,000 gnomes, bobbleheads, beach towels, etc. when they have a popular promotion.  If Free Shirt Friday can have 40,000+ shirts, why can't we have at least half that amount for the other giveaways?  There were many times when I arrived a full hour before first pitch only to find that all the items had already been given away.  For the Jesse Orosco 1986 World Series bobblehead, I stood under the hot sun for over an hour before the gates at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda even opened just to make sure I got mine.  I'd appreciate it if I didn't have to arrive at the ballpark more than three hours before first pitch just to get an item that 25,000 or so people are going to wish they had.  Not all of us have short distances to travel to get to Citi Field and we'd rather not have to leave home before the sun rises just to get a free giveaway prior to a 4:10pm start.

Let's continue talking about start times for games, particularly ESPN Sunday night games.  I know the Mets can't control which games are moved to Sunday night, but surely they can be a little more vocal about it.  Just last season, a Sunday game against the Nationals was moved from 1:10pm to 8:08pm.  And as is par for the course, because it was a Sunday game, kids were allowed to run around the bases in the Mr. Met Dash shortly after the conclusion of the game.  Think about that for a moment.  It was after 11pm.  And kids were running the bases at that time.  Do you really think their parents wanted to stick around for an extra hour or so just so that their kids can spend 30 seconds running in their sleep?  Everyone is tired and just wants to go home!  And with the Mets now becoming one of the better teams in the league, Sunday night games are going to become more prevalent.  This isn't a laughing matter!  Do something about this, Sandy Claus!

I don't think Sandy's little elf should be laughing about Sunday night games, either.

Enough about what I want in my stocking.  Now I'd like to thank you, Sandy Claus.  I'd like to show you my appreciation for doing what it took to give Mets fans an unexpected thrill ride during the season's final two months and in October.  We all know the story.  The Mets struggled to stay above .500 all season.  Wilmer Flores cried.  Then he homered against the Nationals.  Yoenis Cespedes came, saw and conquered National League pitching.  The team swept Washington.  Then they swept them again.  Finally, they celebrated in Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Chicago all the way to the World Series.  Our dreams became reality.  And we couldn't have done it without you, Sandy.

I've also heard that your doppelganger and namesake, Sandy Alderson, has been undergoing cancer treatment.  Little Jeffy Wilpon might be laughing at other things, but I'm sure he's not laughing at this diagnosis.  Unlike the Phillies, Braves and Jonathan Papelbon, cancer is no joke.  It crushes dreams and rips families apart.  Sandy Alderson has made Mets fans dreams come true and in doing so, he helped us all become one big pennant-winning family.  I'd like to wish him all the best so that he makes a full recovery and can continue to be the baseball maverick that he's become.

Well, I guess that's it, Sandy Claus!  You see?  I didn't just ask to receive things.  I also gave my sincerest thanks where it was deserved.  And I also asked for other people to receive things, like good health.  Surely, this will keep me off the naughty list this year, right?  Thanks so much for listening and I hope you have a safe a merry holiday season!

Love and best wishes for the 2016 season and beyond,
Joey Beartran

Citi Field's gates were closed so I had to put this in a mailbox.  Ya gotta work on that for 2016, Sandy Claus.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

And Then There Were Three... (Soon To Be Two, Then One)

Wright may be Shea Stadium's sole survivor in 2016.  Niese is now a Pirate and Murphy and Parnell will be ex-Mets soon.  (All photos by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

During the 2015 season, a total of 49 players played for the Mets.  Of those players, four of them - David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Jonathon Niese and Bobby Parnell - had been with the team since the days when the Mets called Shea Stadium home.

But with yesterday's trade of Niese to the Pittsburgh Pirates for second baseman Neil Walker, that number has dwindled to three.  And with Walker taking up residence in Murphy's primary defensive home, there might soon be two Mets left who played for the team at Shea.

The number could very well be one by Opening Day, as Parnell has pitched just 25 innings over the last two seasons and they haven't been very good innings, as he's allowed 21 runs (18 earned) and 50 base runners (32 hits, 18 walks) in those 25 frames.  For all you kids out there, that's a 6.48 ERA and 2.00 WHIP since the start of the 2014 campaign.  In other words, if Bobby Parnell was left off the postseason roster in 2015, he should be missing in non-action again in 2016 and beyond.

Once David Wright becomes the last Met standing from the halcyon days of Shea, the honor of being the second longest tenured Met will go from a soon-to-be former second baseman (Murphy) to a player who's familiar with seconds (Jenrry Mejia), as his second drug suspension for the same drug in 2015 will cost him much of his 2016 campaign as well.  Mejia will be the second longest tenured Met by a matter of minutes, as he made his Mets debut during the sixth inning of a game on April 7, 2010, just three innings before Ruben Tejada graced us with his presence for the first time.  And yes, that means that not a single player of the 26 men who made their Mets debut in the same year Citi Field made its debut (2009) remains on the team.

Besides Mejia and Tejada, the only other players who played for the Mets as far back as 2010 and were still members of the team last season were Lucas Duda and Dillon Gee (remember him?), although Gee has been granted free agency and will probably join forces with Bobby Parnell in the Land of Make Believe You Were Never A Met.

Just like 2009, there are no players who made their Mets debut in 2011 who are still with the team.  In fact, of the 22 players who suited up as a Met for the first time just four years ago, only one - Josh Satin - made it as far as the 2014 campaign, but he and his eyebrows are now property of the Cincinnati Reds.

That bring us to the 2012 season, a year that saw the Mets debuts of just three players who played for the team in the just-completed 2015 campaign.  And one of those players (Kirk Nieuwenhuis) had a cup of coffee with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County near Disneyland this past season.  That leaves Matt Harvey (Mets debut in July 2012) and Jeurys Familia (Mets debut in September 2012) as the only players from the Year of the No-Hitter who are still with the team and have only played with the Mets.

So let's review.

There were four players on the 2015 roster who were in uniform at the Shea Goodbye ceremony.  One of those players (Jon Niese) will now be partaking of pierogies and Primanti Brothers sandwiches as a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Another one (Daniel Murphy) will be counting his money and his defensive lapses as a member of a new team in 2016.  A third (Bobby Parnell) was less dependable than Alex Torres's hat and is more than likely also going to be an ex-Met in 2016 - something Bartolo Colon will not be, no matter how much he slips up on the mound or elsewhere.

YouTube video posted by psu19420

Jenrry Mejia, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda will now replace Murphy, Niese and Parnell as the second, third and fourth longest tenured Mets.  They will join David Wright as the only players who know what it's like to be managed by Jerry Manuel and who remember firsthand what the Great Wall of Flushing used to look like before half of it was blocked by the Party City Deck.

Since Kirk Nieuwenhuis sported Angels red for a spell in 2015, that will leave Matt Harvey and Jeurys Famila as the fifth and sixth longest tenured Mets, respectively.  So who rounds out the top ten as far as longest tenured Mets are concerned?  Try this on for size.

  • No. 7 - Juan Lagares (Mets debut on April 23, 2013)
  • No. 8 - Carlos Torres (Mets debut on June 16, 2013)
  • No. 9 - Zack Wheeler (Mets debut on June 18, 2013)
  • No. 10 - Wilmer Flores (Mets debut on August 6, 2013)

With Neil Walker and new Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on board, the days for Ruben Tejada as a Met could be numbered.  Jenrry Mejia is one suspension away from not only being an ex-Met, but also an ex-major league baseball player.  That means Lucas Duda might soon find himself as the only Met besides Wright who remembers Omar Minaya signing anyone.

The days of players who were continuously with the Mets for nearly a decade are long gone.  The way things are going, half-decade players could be a thing of the past for the Mets as well.  How long will it be before players on the team start calling Wilmer Flores the old man on the team, assuming Flores sticks around long enough?