Sunday, December 30, 2018

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2018

Another year is about to reach its conclusion, Mets fans.  Ray Ramirez is still gone, the Wilpons are still reluctant to break open their piggy banks and the Mets are still a fourth place team - something they've been for six of Citi Field's ten seasons.  In other words, the calendar may be changing, but the Mets haven't really followed suit.  Or have they?

Since Noah Syndergaard ended the 2018 campaign with a complete game shutout, some dead weight has been shown the door (Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak), some new blood has been added (Robinson Canó, Edwin Díaz, Wilson Ramos) and a "Familia" face has returned to his old haunts (the Danza Kuduro guy).  We've shed one last tear of joy for Wilmer Flores, and exhaled because new Rockies infielder Daniel Murphy will only be making one annual trip to Flushing instead of three.

There are still quite a few free agents available for the Mets to pass up on.  Just as there are many American League teams who should show some good ol' Junior Circuit hospitality to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in order to keep them away from the Phillies.

But that's something for 2019.  We're here to talk about 2018 for the final time.  Optimistic Mets fans saw plenty of happy moments in the soon-to-be-over year, while the blue and orange pessimists (and there are plenty of you out there) thought the 2018 campaign was mostly manure.  Let's see what was so happy and crappy about the dearly departed season, shall we?

Two words.  Jacob deGrom.

You can't have a conversation about what made Mets fans happy in 2018 without mentioning deGrom's historic season.  You know the numbers.  1.70 ERA.  269 strikeouts.  And just ten wins in 32 starts.  Some people have compared Jake's 2018 campaign to Bob Gibson's in 1968 and Doc Gooden's in 1985.  DeGrom's season would have been better if it wasn't for those meddling wins.

Both Gibson and Gooden struck out 268 batters in their historic years.  DeGrom fanned one more.

Gibby and Doc pitched to a 1.12 and 1.53 ERA, respectively, in their Cy Young seasons.  The league average ERA in 1968 was 2.99 (or 1.87 higher than Gibson's record-setting mark), while the average N.L. pitcher in 1985 posted a 3.59 ERA (or 2.06 higher than Doctor K's figure).  Jacob deGrom would like Gibson and Gooden to hold his beer, as his 1.70 ERA was 2.32 lower than the league average 4.02 ERA.

Gibson allowed four runs or more in four of his starts in 1968, while Doc saw four men cross the plate in two of his outings in '85.  Only once did deGrom give up more than three runs in a game in 2018, as he ended the year with 29 consecutive starts allowing three runs or fewer, which is a major league record that Gibson and Gooden failed to approach in their stellar campaigns.

Sure, the Mets had breakout seasons from Brandon Nimmo (53 XBH, .404 OBP, .886 OPS) and Zack Wheeler (12-7, 3.31 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 179 Ks) and Michael Conforto returned from his gruesome shoulder injury to post career highs in home runs (28) and RBI (82), but come on.  None of them brought Mets fans out to the ballpark as much as deGrom did.

Every deGrom start was a must-see event, and unfortunately, once the Mets were eliminated from postseason contention (which, contrary to popular belief, was not during the National Anthem on Opening Day), Jacob's starts were the only things Mets fans were looking forward to.

Which brings us to what was crappy about the 2018 campaign.

Two words.  David Wright.

Wright himself wasn't crappy.  In fact, he's arguably the best homegrown position player in franchise history.  But after playing in just 77 out of the Mets' 648 games from 2015 to 2018, Wright finally called it a career after making one final start for the only team he's ever known.

Wright looked to be on his way to a Hall of Fame career before Ray Ramirez, I mean, spinal stenosis got in the way.  One day, he will have a plaque on display in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum.  Maybe the Mets will even retire No. 5.  But knowing the Mets, they'll probably just take the number out of circulation until Kelvin Torve Jr. is ready to be called up.

"Hey, kid!  Have we got the perfect uniform number for you!"

Anyway, the really crappy guy here is Peter O'Brien, the Marlins' first baseman who caught Wright's foul pop-up near the first base stands rather than slipping on an imaginary banana peel in order to give Wright a chance to get one final hit in a Mets uniform.  What is it about the Marlins playing the Mets in New York during the season's final three games that cause such crappy moments to happen?

On that note, I hope someone got O'Brien a copy of "How to Catch Pop-Ups at Citi Field" by respected author Luis Castillo as a stocking stuffer.

That's all she wrote for 2018, which means the 2019 season is just around the corner.  But before you put up one of those new calendars that someone got you for the holidays because they had no idea what else to get you and they've never heard of gift cards, let's pause to give credit to those hardworking Mets bloggers who still find the time to write about their favorite team even though most people have switched over to doing podcasts.

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 Studious Metsimus Headquarters, which is pretty much just a desk, a computer, a keyboard that needs a new battery and a guard cat (we couldn't afford a guard dog), we'd like to thank you for your continued support of this site and wish you all the best in 2019.  And when I say "we", I'm talking about Ed Leyro (the guy at the desk), Joey Beartran (the roving reporter/culinary expert who would like his computer back so he can order dinner) and Taryn "The Coop" Cooper (who would invent new curse words if I asked her to get a battery for the keyboard instead of just getting it myself).

And remember, Mets fans.  Winning isn't everything.  It's just the thing Jacob deGrom can't do whenever he pitches eight innings of one-run ball.


The Studious Metsimus crew will be at a ballpark near you in 2019.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Joey's Final Letter to Sandy Claus (2018)

In addition to what I ask for in this letter, I could also use a less drafty winter hat.  I almost froze taking this photo.

Dear Sandy Claus,

It's me, Joey Beartran, with my annual letter to you about what I want for the holidays.  Alas, this will be my final letter to you.  It's not because I've found someone else to write to who has a better success rate at giving me what I ask for.  It's also not because of the rumor I heard that you've been sick and had to pass along the keys to your sleigh to Brodie the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  (Although my sources can confirm that this is not a rumor.  Get well soon, you jolly old elf.)

No, the real reason why this is my final letter to you is because I'm no longer a kid.  I'm 14 years old!  Plus, I saw my Studious Metsimus colleague actually putting the presents under the tree last year instead of you, so I put two and two together when I saw that.  Don't worry.  I didn't share that information with my younger siblings.

Despite knowing the truth, I'm still a believer in tradition, so I'm penning one more wish list for you.  If your red-nosed replacement wants to read it with you, please feel free to share it with him.

This time around, the items I ask for won't be as impossible to find as they were in previous years.  So I won't be asking for Travis d'Arnaud to play past the first week of the season or for Yoenis Céspedes to drink more water.  Likewise, I won't demand for 30 pitchers to put on a Mets uniform in 2019 just to surpass last season's total of 29.  I already know no amount of pitchers can hold a lead for Jacob deGrom anyway.

No, my desires are reasonable this year.  As reasonable as it is to expect that Noah Syndergaard won't be traded before Opening Day or that Wilmer Flores won't come back to deliver a walk-off hit against the Mets instead of for them.  So grab one of those blue and orange cookies from the World's Fare Market that hardly anyone ever goes to and hear me out.  It's the least you could do for making us put up with Jose Reyes being on the 25-man roster every single day last season.

I'm feeling melancholy knowing I won't see Wilmer Flores raise the apple anymore at Citi Field.

I'd like a promise that all our prospects won't be traded away to land reclamation projects and players who aren't sure things.  First, our top picks from the 2016 and 2018 drafts were dealt to Seattle for Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz.  Then, rumors have been swirling that Brandon Nimmo and/or Michael Conforto (a.k.a. the Mets' 2011 and 2014 first round picks, respectively) could be shipped off to Miami for J.T. Realmuto.  It's a good thing Peter Alonso was a second round pick or else I'd be worried that he'd be on the trading block.  You can't have a good future if the future is playing somewhere else.

Speaking of Peter Alonso, I'd like to see him on the Mets' Opening Day roster in 2019.  Between his time at Double-A, Triple-A and the Arizona Fall League, Alonso appeared in 159 games, or just about the equivalent of one full major league season.  In those games, he collected 81 extra-base hits (38 doubles, one triple, 42 homers), crossed the plate 108 times and drove in 146 runs.  For the record, no Met has ever produced more than 80 extra-base hits or surpassed 124 RBI in a single season.  If the team wants to save money by not starting his countdown clock to free agency so soon, may I remind the powers-that-be that Alonso might make them a sleigh-load of money in the form of extra ticket sales, merchandising, etc.  Your red-nosed friend won't be needed to light up the sky once Alonso starts to do that with his monster shots.

I'd like you to make sure Zack Wheeler eats the same meals every day, sleeps on the same side of the bed every night and answers all of Steve Gelbs' questions the same way (okay, that last one won't be too hard).  What I'm trying to say is, whatever Wheeler did last year, make sure he doesn't change a thing, especially after finally having his breakout season seven years after the Mets acquired him and five years after making his big league debut.  It's funny that once the man he was traded for (Carlos Beltran) retired, Wheeler finally stayed healthy and became a productive player.  Maybe all we need is for Michael Fulmer to call it a career in Detroit so that Yoenis Céspedes can finally earn that nine-figure salary.

Pssst!  Mr. Met!  Can you run this letter over to Sandy Claus?  And please don't pull a hamstring doing it.

For the 2019 season, I'd like Jacob deGrom to finally get some run support.  That means the Killer Cs (Canó, Céspedes, Conforto) have to hit the way we expect them to.  The Mets went 14-18 in deGrom's starts in 2018.  In eighteen of his 32 starts, deGrom allowed no more than one run.  The Mets found a way to lose eight of those games.  In approximately two-thirds of deGrom's appearances (21 of his 32 starts), the Mets failed to score more than three runs.  Had the team averaged 4.3 runs per game like they did in games not started by deGrom, they would have gone 23-9 in his outings instead of 14-18.  Those nine extra wins would have given the Mets an 86-76 record in 2018 and, more importantly, would have given the team meaningful games in September.  But hey, maybe the team likes empty seats in September.  I know I'm okay with the food lines being shorter when the team isn't playing well.  But I'd be more okay if the hitters came through when deGrom was on the mound.  On a related note, I'd like some Metropolitan Club seats next year so that food can be delivered to me at my seat.

I'd like Mickey Callaway to stop making the occasional bonehead decision or four.  You could chalk up having players batting out of order, not having relievers warming up in the bullpen when they're needed and any other head-scratching moves to his inexperience as a team's skipper.  But he now has a year under his belt.  Those mistakes in judgment won't be so easy to forgive in 2019.  He's not Jerry Manuel, so he can't depend on being gangsta to talk his way out of those errors this year.

Do you remember when we all blamed Ray Ramirez for the team's injuries?  Well, Dr. Death wasn't employed by the Mets in 2018, but players still spent as much time at the Hospital For Special Surgery as they did in the clubhouse.  It's almost getting to the point where they should just rename various wings of the hospital after the Mets players who find themselves constantly walking through the halls.  That's assuming they're able to walk, of course.  Therefore, I'd like to request that the team do whatever it can to help its players stay on the field.  I'd rather buy tickets to see the players on the field, not in the hospital recovery room.  Plus, hospital food is not an adequate replacement for the fare at Citi Field.

Is it true that I get eight days and nights of presents if I light one of these up?

Well, that's it for my final letter to you, Sandy Claus.  To recap, I'd like the team to stop being allergic to keeping first round picks.  I'd also like to see Peter Alonso in April without having to buy a plane ticket to Las Vegas.  Please make sure Zack Wheeler's second verse is the same as the first.  (And don't let Steve Gelbs show him video of the "churro dog incident".  No need for Wheeler to change his eating habits now.)  Take Harry Caray's advice and "let's get some runs" whenever the ace takes the hill.  Tell Mickey Callaway to watch "Moonstruck", especially the scene where Cher slaps Nicolas Cage.  (He'll know what I mean.)  Also, schedule an exorcism to make sure the ghost of Ray Ramirez hasn't been hanging around Citi Field.

Do all that and my retirement as a letter writer to Sandy Claus will be as happy as the one I hope David Wright is having.  (Miss you, Captain.)  Oh, and make sure you don't allow anyone to wear Wright's No. 5.  Willie Mays' previously out-of-circulation No. 24 was already handed to Robinson Canó.  The last thing we want is for the number to go to a journeyman player who's played for four teams over the last seven seasons and can't outhit Mario Mendoza in his most recent campaign but still finds a way to appear in over 100 games in said season.  Ask Jose Reyes what I'm talking about if you don't know what I mean.

Thanks so much for reading my letter, Sandy Claus.  And you too, Brodie, for being such a nosy reindeer.  (I know you were reading it over Sandy's shoulder.)  I wish you both a happy holiday season and hope Sandy makes a full recovery.  After all, I might not be writing any more letters after this one but every once in a while I might need to sit on a jolly old elf's lap to ask for a few things.  Those moments never get old.

Love and Mex Burgers forever,
Joey Beartran

I'll never forget you, Sandy Claus.  I hope your lap is always available to me.  You know, just in case.