Jason Bay hit a grand slam. I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it actually happened! The struggling Bay, who was hitting .152 coming into today’s game in Miami, had been hitting .120 since returning from a concussion in July and lost a big chunk of his playing time. Normally on days when Bay is playing I can pencil him in the “Goat of the Game” section, but the grand slam came as a huge shocker.
Bay’s grand slam was part of a five-run first inning off Mark Buehrle, who just had a rough inning. Before Bay’s home run, David Wright grounded out with Ronny Cedeno scoring on the play. After the first, the Mets were in control with the five-run lead.
In the fallout from Melky Cabrera’s 50-game suspension for PED (Performance Enhancing Drug) use this week, Victor Conte made a big splash with what he said about drug use in baseball in an interview with USA Today:
”I’m not going to name names, but I’ve talked to a lot of top players in Major League Baseball, and they tell me this is what they’re doing,” Conte said. “There is rampant use of synthetic testosterone in Major League Baseball.”
He would go on to say “it’s so easy to circumvent” referring to a drug test. This raises a big question: Have we really gotten past the “steroid era?”
We have thought over the past few years that for the large part, steroids and other PEDs have, for the most part, disappeared from baseball and that the vast majority of players around the league are clean.
Victor Conte was the founder and owner of BALCO, a former Bay Area-based company that for years, distributed steroids and other drugs to pro athletes for years until being shut down by the government in 2003. I’m sure Conte is exaggerating to some degree, but he is right about the testing system being flawed and that there are likely quite a number of players each year who get around the system.
One of the problems is the weakness of the offseason testing policy. This upcoming
year, there will only be up to 200 random offseason tests. They need to test players more often and at different times of the year. Until every player is tested randomly both in the season and during the offseason, the problem will not go away.
However, I do believe there has been at least progress and fewer players are using PEDs. For one, the numbers support it and second, fewer players are testing positive. Of course, this could just mean that players are learning to get around the testing like Conte said.
The numbers are looking better. Home run totals are returning to normal and the amount of positive tests has gone down dramatically in recent years. But Conte may be right. The system is flawed and we may still have a big problem on our hands.
Just one night after Mike Leake stole the show in Cincinnati, it was Matt Harvey’s turn. Harvey, looking to snap a personal three-game losing streak, took the mound for his fifth start in the majors.
Harvey dominated early and seemed to keep getting better as the game progressed. He kept his pitch count low and it looked for a while like he had a shot at pitching a complete game. He got into trouble in the seventh inning, however. The Reds plated a run in the inning, smacking two doubles. In the eighth, Harvey allowed a single and a walk. He was removed with two outs in the eighth inning.
Harvey left the mound very disappointed. He knew in the eighth when Drew Stubbs came to bat that if he walked him, it would be the end of the night. Well, he walked Stubbs and pounded his glove. I’m not sure whether he was more upset about leaving the game or handing the ball to the worst bullpen in baseball.
Why he was brought here: Josh Thole has proven recently that he is not the long-term answer for the Mets at the catcher position. He has proven that he cannot hit lefties. Sandy Alderson needed to bring in someone who can platoon with Thole.
What he will be used for: Terry Collins told reporters yesterday that Shoppach will be used mostly against left-handers. Thole has hit .188 in his career against lefties, including .219 this season. Shoppach, on the other hand, has a .270/.364/.530 batting line against lefties in 492 career at-bats. The Mets as a team have failed to hit lefties and need someone in their lineup that can help them in that regard.
Strengths: As I just mentioned, his ability to hit left-handers is a huge asset, especially on this team. Shoppach’s best quality, however, may be his power. In 2008, when he played in a career-high 112 games, Shoppach hit 21 home runs and 27 doubles in 352 at-bats. That isn’t too impressive, but when you consider that he’s a catcher, as well as who he is replacing, it certainly is an upgrade with the power.
Weaknesses: He isn’t the greatest defensive catcher. Although there aren’t any reliable fielding statistics, especially for a catcher, the stats say he is in the bottom tier of catchers defensively. Also, he has hit just .204 in his career against righties. I expect him to play only against lefties, so that won’t be a problem.
Overall, this is a good move by the Mets. Sure, it’s a little late. They really needed Shoppach’s help earlier in the season but was Shoppach going to stop the collapse? Of course not.
What’s important now, is the Mets now have a leg up on other teams in signing him this offseason. If they insist on keeping Josh Thole on the roster, they need someone to compliment him and Shoppach is that guy. He hits lefties and he is experienced (FWIW). On top of that, the power-starved Mets lineup needs a boost. This isn’t going to solve the home run problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.
On top of all this, the Mets didn’t give up much: Just a player to be named later. This deal will likely be a minor league roster filler in exchange for exclusive negotiating rights with a solid catcher. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
Chris Young wasn’t particularly great. Sure, he kept the Reds scoreless, but they were so close to breaking the game open. He had trouble every inning. Despite allowing at least one baserunner in every inning, he didn’t allow the Reds to score.
The same was true (although to a lesser degree) for the Mets against Mat Latos and the Cincinnati bullpen. They loaded the bases in the sixth and seventh innings, but still couldn’t come up with a single run. This is the third time in six games the Mets have been shut out.
As the offseason gets closer and closer, speculation about which uniform David Wright will be wearing for the 2014 (or even 2013) season heat up. Wright won’t negotiate with the Mets in-season, and has made that very clear publicly. Despite this, however, David told Mike Puma of the New York Post that he is very “optimistic” that a deal with him and the Mets will get done:
“Coming up through the system, I have a tremendous amount of loyalty to this organization,” Wright said. “I can’t tell you what the future holds, but I’m hoping — optimistic — that something will get done.”
David also expressed that money will not be the big issue:
“The money issue for me, I don’t think that will be the deciding factor,” said Wright, who is batting .325 with 16 homers and 75 RBIs and .416 on-base percentage in the final guaranteed season of his six-year contract worth $55 million.
More important, he says, is a chance to win the World Series.
“You want to be able to win, and I’ve only experienced a little bit of that here,” Wright said. “In a perfect world, we get this thing turned around and going in the right direction and ultimately I get to experience the bad, the ugly and the good here, which includes winning.”
Hopefully, the money won’t be an issue. From the outside, we are all still unsure about the financial situation the Mets are currently in. The only hint to how much they have is the amount Sandy Alderson spends this offseason. They might still be broke, so Wright giving them a possible discount may be the only way he could return to the Mets.
David leaving would be much harder to swallow than Jose Reyes signing with the Marlins. David has been the undisputed leader of this team since he was young, and is now a great example of a team-first guy, and one that young players can look up to. On top of that, he has been one of the best players in baseball this season.
David Wright is a kind of player that every franchise wants to have. Let’s just hope the Mets can keep him.
Series Preview: Mets End Homestand With Three Against Atlanta
The Mets begin a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves tonight at 7:10.
The Braves come into this series red-hot and look like they are going to challenge the Nationals for the NL East crown. Atlanta has won seven of their last ten, and 12 of their last 15 games. They currently sit only four and a half back of Washington.
The Braves, as of late, have looked more like a team that could play well into October as opposed to a team that could barely get into the playoffs. They have gotten solid production from expected (and unexpected) places in their lineup that have really helped them stay alive.
Balance is one word that perfectly describes the Braves. Their offense and their pitching staff are both very solid. They rank in the middle of the pack in most major offensive categories and the same is true for the pitching staff as well. That, combined with new acquisitions and a dominant bullpen, make the Braves very dangerous, and very tough to beat.
Chipper Jones has been red-hot lately. Jones has hit .354 since the beginning of July with four home runs. Jones is having quite a season for someone his age, a season that he claims will be his last.
While Jones has picked up the production, Michael Bourn’s has dropped. He is hitting .248 with a .329 OBP since July 1.
Ben Sheets may have had his best outing as a Brave yet in his last start. Sheets went 7.1 innings, allowing one run on seven hits. In four of Sheets’ five starts, he has allowed one run or fewer.
Jair Jurrjens was recently sent back down to the minors after being given another chance with the Braves last month. In July, Jurrjens struggled again, allowing 17 earned runs (20 total) in 18.2 innings. Jurrjens’ struggles may be due to arm wear. He has lost a few miles per hour on his fastball, which we saw when he faced the Mets in April.
Craig Kimbrel is having another outstanding season for Atlanta. Kimbrel has a 1.26 ERA in 43 innings this season, and has a 0.75 ERA since June 1.
The bullpen has been a major discussion virtually every day in Mets-world over the past few months. As a unit, they are clearly the worst in baseball, and the numbers back that up as well. We know that Sandy Alderson needs to acquire a reliever or two net off-season. However, the bigger question this winter will be: Who stays?
Despite the Mets having one of the worst bullpens in baseball, there are definitely some parts that can be salvaged from the rubble. Here are a few guys the Mets should consider bringing back next season.
Say what you will about the early-season inconsistencies from Francisco, but he has settled down and pitched well of late. Although he missed the end of June and early July, he came back on Saturday and looked fine. Before last night’s game, Francisco had posted a 2.00 ERA since June 1.
He’s not one of the best closers in baseball, but he’s decent. I would be perfectly fine with him sticking around next season as the closer. He’s not as expensive as some of the other high-profile closers and he’s also pretty good. If he can stay healthy, I want him in the bullpen for the 2013 season.
Parnell has finally settled into his role in the bullpen and looks like he could be a decent setup man. In the past, he just threw gas to get him by, but now he has looked like more of a pitcher this season, as opposed to a “thrower.” Combine that with the fact that he will be very cheap and you have someone to keep around.
Parnell is finally finding a place for himself. I wouldn’t trust him as a closer based on his past experiences, but he is a solid setup man for sure.
Ramon Ramirez has definitely not had his best season, but Sandy Alderson should bring him back net year if he is cheap. If he asks for a one-year deal for two to three million, I’d be perfectly fine with that.
Ramirez has a great track record as a relief pitcher, going all the way back to his age 24 season in 2006. No, he hasn’t been particularly great this year, but he has shown improvement and his track record is too big to ignore. Again, this is only if he won’t cost the Mets much.
Edgin, just 25, has been very impressive this season. Edgin, unlike past lefty relievers, throws very hard, with his fastball clocked at 95 MPH and a really good slider. Not only does he has the stuff to succeed, but so far, he has succeeded.
I really think Edgin can be more than just a one-out left-hander. He isn’t a Tim Byrdak or Pedro Feliciano. He can be a reliable setup man who can go one, or even two innings when needed.
I’m very excited to Edgin’s future. He will be under team control for quite a few years. There really isn’t any reason why he shouldn’t be on next year’s roster.
I wrestled with the idea of including Jon Rauch on this list. He has a 2.45 ERA since
June 1, after having a terrible April and May. However, he will likely get an offer to be a full-time close and he will probably take it. The Mets will probably still be on a tight budget this winter, and if Rauch is being offered closer’s money, Sandy Alderson won’t be able to match. I would like Rauch on the roster, but it’s unlikely that he would re-sign, especially if he keeps pitching so well.
Now, we are getting into the junk. We’ve gone through all the consistent (maybe “consistent” is a little generous) pitchers on the roster. The guys the are left are the Manny Acostas and Elvin Ramirezes of the world. Definitely guys not worth even thinking about re-signing this off-season.
Looking back at this list, I realized that most of the bullpen will probably be back next season, which I’m actually fine with. Sandy Alderson does need to find a legitimate setup man to go along with Parnell and Edgin, but the bullpen has a solid core going for it. It’s really been the guys on the fringes of the roster (i.e. Miguel Batista) who have hurt this team the most. Manny Acosta, for example, despite not being with the team for almost two whole months, is still second in all of baseball in runs allowed as a relief pitcher. That’s astonishing. Him, Batista, Elvin Ramirez, and others have also been awful with the Mets so far.
Hopefully, next year, the bullpen won’t be such a hot topic. Maybe we will be talking about the bullpen as a strength as opposed to a weakness.
The Mets knocked out Padres starter Edinson Volquez very early. Volquez had awful command, walking four batters in just 1.2 innings.
Walks were a theme on the night for the Mets. They walked a total of ten times. Mike Baxter along walked 5 times.
Jeremy Hefner pitched very well, allowing just one run over six innings. He may not have been the most high-profile pickup this winter, but he has done a great job filling in while Johan Santana has been on the DL.
Frank Francisco entered the game with one out in the ninth and recorded his 19th save of the season.
The Mets play the Padres in the series finals today at 4:05. Matt Harvey (1-1, 1.59 ERA) will go up against Jason Marquis (4-6, 4.08 ERA).
Series Preview: Mets Play Three Against Struggling Padres
The Mets begin a three-game series with the Padres tonight at PETCO Park in San Diego. The first pitch is at 10:05 eastern time.
The Padres have really struggled lately. After opening up the second half 7-3, including winning two of three against the Dodgers on the road, San Diego has gone just 3-7. In their last series, a four-game set against the Reds, they lost three of four.
Pitching, which has been a big constant for the Padres over the last few years, has not been at the same level as years past in 2012. Last year, the Padres were third in baseball in ERA, but have fallen this year to 15th. That, combined with a less-than-stellar offense, make the Padres a very mediocre team.
Speaking of the offense, are one of the worst in baseball. The Padres rank third to last in baseball in runs scored, and only have two players with ten or more home runs. Chase Headley, who has been the only threat in the Padres lineup over the past few seasons, is having a career year. He has a career-high 13 home runs. Besides Headley, the only other real power threat is Carlos Quentin. Quentin has ten homers in 50 games this season. Past those two, however, and you’ll find mostly players similar to Will Venable- guys who are able to steal a few bases, but not much else. If the Mets can score four runs in each game in this series, they should at least take two of three from the Padres.
If there is one real bright spot on the Padres roster, it has to be their bullpen. Led by Huston Street, the Padres have one of the better bullpens in baseball. Street has a 0.88 ERA in 30.2 innings this season. Luke Gregerson, who currently has the team lead in appearances, has a 2.81 ERA in 48 innings pitched. It should be difficult for the Mets to score runs in the late innings this weekend. They’ll have to score early.
The Mets got to Zito early, (as you can see on the wonderful chart above) scoring four runs in the first inning. In total, Zito lasted just 4.1 innings, giving up seven runs on six hits.He also walked three batters.
For once, a Mets game wasn’t stressful!
The Mets finish off their west coast swing with a series in San Diego, which starts tomorrow night at 10:05. R.A. Dickey (14-2, 2.83 ERA) will go up against Clayton Richard(7-11, 4.14 ERA).
Hopefully, today’s outing means Dickey is back to his old self. He has had a very rough streak of starts and has faltered after an amazing first half. He had decent command today, which was a good sign. Let’s hope he can continue this in his next start.
Jenrry Mejia Going Back To The Starting Rotation, Mets Making The Right Call
The Mets are moving Jenrry Mejiaback to the starting rotation and it’s about time. Mejia, 22, has bounced between the bullpen and the starting rotation throughout his career including a stint in the big league bullpen as a relief pitcher.
The original thought on Mejia was he was coming off Tommy John surgery, so his innings would be limited this season. The Mets front office decided to take advantage of that and move Mejia to the bullpen, where he eventually might be anyway. However, the role switch really hurt Mejia’s performance. As a relief pitcher, he has a 5.48 ERA in 21.1 innings pitched compared to a 1.13 ER in three starts with the Bisons.
The Mets want to (and need to) give Mejia the quality innings so he can develop and
eventually become the major league pitcher that he has the talent to be. However, it’s been made clear that the bullpen is not the place for him to do that. I’ve always thought that a pitcher gets quality innings when starting. Then, pitchers are utilizing their off-speed pitches in order to get hitters out as opposed to just trying to blow away hitters with fastballs, as Mejia is reportedly doing and what many starters transitioning to the bullpen often try to do.
Velocity isn’t going to get Mejia by at the major leagues. It may scare a Double-A, or even some Triple-A hitters, but hitters like Giancarlo Stanton and Chase Utley are going to smack a fastball down the middle, whether it’s at 100 miles per hour or not. It’s the changeups and breaking balls that make or break pitchers and that’s what Mejia really needs to work on.
As I’ve said all along, Mejia, for development purposes, belongs in the starting rotation. Who knows? He may still be a relief pitcher in the future, but he needs those quality innings as a starter in the minors before he can become the dominant, late-inning force the Mets so desperately need him to be in the future.
Mejia is scheduled to return to the rotation for Buffalo on Monday, when he will start in Indianapolis.
Alright, I know these past few weeks have been frustrating. The Mets have gone from a playoff contender to almost completely out of it. The team has obvious holes and inconsistencies. But why are so many people mad at Sandy Alderson?
If we look back to late 2010, when it was obvious that Omar Minaya was going to be
fired, the Mets were in bad shape. Word of financial troubles were emerging and flexibility was limited. Jason Bay was coming off a really bad year for the Mets in the first year of his contract. That, combined with concerns regarding his concussion made him untradeable. Then you had Johan Santana who had major surgery late in the season and with a huge contract, he was stuck there, too. The list goes on and on. The bullpen was decimated. And on top of all that, the farm system had been decimated by Omar Minaya. Sandy Alderson was put in a really tough spot.
Throughout last season, it was more of the same. The outlook for the team financially looked very bleak and with quite a few unmovable contracts, Alderson couldn’t do much then either. All he was able to do was unload Francisco Rodriguez's bad contract as well as get a stud prospect from the Giants in Zack Wheeler.
Now this season comes along. Before this season, the mindset was all about development, and preparing this team for the future. The “core” of this team was, for the most part, extremely young and inexperienced. If the front office stayed the course, it would all turn out pretty well. Then came the season.
With he Mets’ hot start, expectations rose to a level unfair to the players. Yes, the team was a few games over .500. They were fun to watch and for the first time in a few years, they really showed fight and resilience. However, this team had deep flaws. Flaws that couldn’t be fixed with one simple deadline deal and I think Alderson realized that.
When you look at the farm system you see that it is just starting to recover from what Omar Minaya did to it. We are now finally producing some notable prospects. After that comes legitimate big league talent. Do fans really want to risk the future by trading some of those rising minor league stars away? Is it really worth it?
The way I think of it is this: The Mets are a long, long ways away from being a playoff team. They need a completely new bullpen and a reorganized outfield. They may also need a catcher. The flaws are so deep that even multiple mid-season, blockbuster trades may not guarantee a playoff berth. I’d much rather stick it out with the young prospects, which can help the team much longer than any 35 year-old veteran outfielder can.
Accepting this might be hard for Mets fans, especially ones that don’t follow the minor league system closely. However, Sandy Alderson has an eye on the future and isn’t going to throw it all away for this season. I have to admit that these past three weeks have been tough to swallow, but I know that the Mets will be better off in the long-run without making impulsive deals.
While Terry Collins has always been patient with Jason Bay, even he has to be sick of his perforemance right now. He stuck with him these past two years based on his long track-record of success in Pittsburgh and Boston. However, his leash with Bay is shortening, as it should be.
Prior to Friday night’s game in Arizona, Collins told reporters that it could be Mike Baxter who gets the starting left fielder job when he returns from the DL. Baxter is 21-for-65 in limited playing time, but even considering how small his sample size is this season, virtually anything is better than Jason Bay, who is hitting .170 at the moment.
Bay will only have a few more weeks to regain the form that earned him the four-year, $66 million contract he earned before the 2009 season.
This may also be Bay’s last season as a Met. It seems unlikely that Sandy Alderson would trade him now, especially since Scott Hairston could go as well, but this offseason may be the perfect time to deal him, if there was one. Bay has one more year left on his contract at $16 million and a $17 million option for 2014 if he gets to 600 plate appearances.
I could see (and certainly hope) that somehow, the Mets can pull of a deal similar to the one that sent A.J. Burnett to the Pirates in February. However, Sandy Alderson will probably be willing to accept any trade that takes Bay off his hands. Any amount of salary that the receiving team would be willing to take on is just an added bonus. Bay really needs to get out of New York. He needs a change of scenery, as well as a hitting coach that can get him back to whatever he was doing in Pittsburgh and Boston that he hasn’t been doing since. A major resurgence for him as a Met seems extremely unlikely at this point.
Bay can’t go into next season under contract with the Mets. If he does. he will be put in almost an impossible situation for him to deal with. Not only will fans be booing him in every at-bat, but there will be mounting pressure on Terry Collins to not use Bay as much so he does not reach the 600 plate appearances, much like what happened last year with Francisco Rodriguez. That’s a distraction that the team won’t be able to handle.
I respect Jason Bay. He’s a professional and is just as upset (probably more) as all of us fans are about his performance. But there’s one thing that’s clear: he has to go.
Series Preview: Mets Begin West Coast Trip With Four In Arizona
Tonight at 9:40, the Mets begin the first game of an eleven-game west coast road trip against the Diamondbacks in Arizona.
The Mets are coming out of their last homestand desperate for wins. They really need a big run to turn this season around and they need it fast. They are on the brink of being irrelevant. If they don’t roll of a bunch of victories fast, they will be out of the playoff race entirely.
Not only will this series be important in the actual standings, but it will also be very revealing of how resilient this year’s Mets team really is. Terry Collins really ripped into them in his last press conference after yesterda’ys game. After having 36 hours to sit on that, it should be very interesting to see how the Mets respond.
The Diamondbacks are a team led mostly by their offense. They have gotten great performances out of some recent acquisitions: Jason Kubel and Aaron Hill. Hill, who the D-Backs got from Toronto last August, has been a big run producer and is second on the team in home runs. Kubel, who signed a two-year deal with Arizona in December, is having a career-best season. He is hitting around .300 and has over 20 home runs on the season. He is also up there among league RBI leaders with more than 70. Those two have been keys to the Diamondbacks being a .500 team.
The Mets need to step up and win some games if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, and that all starts tonight. Lose three of four and the Mets could find themselves nine or ten games back. This series will make or break this season.
Justin Upton has not been himself this season. Upton hit over 30 home runs last year with a slugging percentage of .529. He is on pace to hit fewer than 15 home runs this year and his slugging percentage has dropped more than 100 points from last season.
Friday’s starter for the Diamondbacks, Josh Collmenter, has a 1.53 ERA over his last 15 games, which include four starts.
David Wright has been in a bit of a slump lately. Well, by his standards. Wright is hitting .301 this month, but also has six homers and 17 RBI.
Matt Harvey will make his long-awaited debut tonight. In his last start in Buffalo, he allowed six runs on seven hits in just five innings.
Jon Niese bounced back from a rough outing against Chicago on July 8 with two great starts. Niese has allowed more than four runs in just three of his 19 starts this season. He has really only had two really bad starts- against the Cubs on July 8, and also in Toronto in mid-May.
Since throwing his second consecutive one-hitter on June 18, R.A. Dickey has struggled. In seven games (six starts) he has an ERA of 5.36, compared to 2.00 over his first 14 outings.
The Mets lost last night by a score of 5-2. R.A. Dickey was only alright. Combine that with only three hits on offense and you have a big problem. Even a dramatic late-inning home run by Jordany Valdespin couldn’t save them. (Post, Box Score)
Sandy Alderson told reporters before yesterday’s game that they would not be major buyers at the trade deadline. The only moves the Mets would make are ones that would help them in 2013 and beyond. (ESPN New York)
In order to make room for Matt Harvey on the roster, the Mets have to send someone to Triple-A Buffalo. Bob Klapisch reports it will be the struggling Lucas Duda that gets sent down. (@BobKlap)