Luck O’ The Maverick Rescues Mets From Parallel Universe

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Let’s take a moment and see what could have happened if the Mets had slipped into an alternate reality at the 2015 trading deadline:

February is upon us and it’s nearly time for the start of Spring Training. After the lackluster 81-81 finish to the 2015 season, Sandy Alderson is forced to answer many of the same questions he faced last spring. Will the team finally take a step forward? Will the Mets reach the 90 win goal that management has set forth for the second season in a row? Can the Mets finally beat the Nationals who have won the NL East for 3 of the last 4 seasons?

Mets fans are restless and want to know what can be expected from Carlos Gomez in CF. Gomez, who was acquired at the trade deadline for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores, failed to propel the Mets anemic offense over the final two months of the season. After injuries plagued Gomez down the stretch, Mets fans want to know if he will be healthy this year, and if Sandy regrets giving up Zack Wheeler for just one full season of Gomez before he inevitably tests free agency. In addition, Mets fans wonder how Juan Lagares will react to being relegated to the bench in favor of a player with a similar skill-set just one season after signing a 20 million dollar contract.

The signing of 35 year old utility-man Ben Zobrist to play 2B has provided some excitement for the fan base as he represents the Mets first significant free agent acquisition since the 2013 signing of Curtis Granderson. Zobrist, coming off a World Series championship with the Royals, was courted by the Nationals in the off-season and reportedly had interest in returning to his home state of Illinois to play for the Cubs. However, due to Zobrist’s age and the success of Starlin Castro at 2B during their run to the NL pennant, the Cubs were reluctant to get involved in the bidding. Many experts questioned the Mets decision to give a 4 year contract to a 35 year old player with a recent history of knee injuries. However it was clear during their pursuit that the Mets loved Zobrist and were willing overlook the risks associated with the back-end of the contract.

Ruben Tejada will once again enter Spring Training as the favorite to start at SS despite fans clamoring for an acquisition at the position. Sandy Alderson has remained firm on his view that he is not open to an acquisition at SS (e.g. Alexei Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera etc) if it does not represent a significant upgrade over the options on the current roster.

After finishing .500 with a 25th ranked offense that consistently failed to score runs, overtaking the Nationals in the NL East will be more challenging than ever. This is especially true considering the Nationals have had an off-season full of high profile acquisitions headlined by former Met Daniel Murphy and Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

Aside from the Nats, the early favorite in the National League is the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are fresh off of beating the Nationals in the NL Divisional Series, taking out the Dodgers for the NL pennant, and going on an unexpected run to the World Series before losing to the Kansas City Royals in 6 games. In addition to retaining Dexter Fowler, Starlin Castro and the other core players from their NL Championship team, the Cubs added Jason Heyward, John Lackey and traded Jorge Soler for Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians in an effort to bolster their rotation.

The Nationals have added to their already talented roster in the hopes of winning the NL East for the third year in a row. The Cubs are brimming with confidence and feel they are ready to take the final step to win a World Championship. The Mets just hope that in 2016 they can finally take a step forward and show their fans that the franchise is finally trending in the right direction.

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The story above represents a not so far-fetched Parallel Universe that the Mets could easily exist in right now if not for a few key events.

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I’m not a physicist so I won’t pretend to understand the actual feasibility of the existence of this alternate reality. However, I do know that the Mets were a doctor’s blessing away from that Gomez for Wheeler/Flores trade. A trade the Astros made just a few days after the Mets rejected the deal. Now in hindsight, we can all confidently say that the acquisition of Gomez would not have had the impact that the Cespedes deal had on the Mets 2015 season. Hell there’s almost nobody that could have had the impact of Cespedes.

We also know that in November, the Mets were a handshake and signature away from signing Ben Zobrist to play 2B. If the Mets had acquired Gomez instead of Cespedes at the 2015 deadline, its not likely that their off-season strategy would have changed that much. Clearly Mets management loved the versatility that Zobrist would have brought to the roster. And theoretically, if the Cubs had gone on a pennant run instead of the Mets, perhaps the Cubs offseason thinking would have changed. Maybe Starlin Castro has a big performance in the NLCS and the World Series and the Cubs decide to keep him in the fold, creating an opportunity for the Mets to actually finalize a contract with Zobrist.

The only thing separating the Mets from the mediocre parallel universe above and the sweet reality of the Cespedes acquisition, 90 win season, NL East crown, NL pennant, and ultimately World Series appearance is….dumb luck. That’s right. The Mets got a little bit of the Luck O’ the Maverick. Our quack team of doctors, for the first time ever, actually saw something concerning in their medical review and nixed the Gomez deal. Despite the Mets offering more money to the aging Zobrist, he could not resist the urge to return to his home state. Now the Cubs get to deal with the risks associated with giving an expensive contract to an aging player.

Luck is something we have hardly ever had in the history of the franchise (see: Seaver trade, Nolan Ryan trade, Gooden/Strawberry crack addiction, Bonilla signing, Mo Vaughn trade, Duaner Sanchez cab injury, Jason Bay‘s inexplicable deterioration, Ike Davis‘ magic career ending illness, owners being involved in a Ponzi scheme, and most recently David Wright‘s spinal stenosis. Just to name a few). However, it would seem with Sandy the Maverick at the helm, the Mets are finally beginning to see some random luck in this elegant universe that we inhabit. We just have to hope that the luck continues because without it, we may wind up getting sucked into an injury-riddled black hole of a season that takes us to the division cellar. But as Stephen Hawking said, “The past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.” Let’s hope one of those possibilities is a 2016 World Series Championship.

What Happened to Banning Takeout Slides?

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It wasn’t too long ago that Yankee mole and MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre sat at a podium shortly after Ruben Tejada had been demolished by Chase Utley‘s filthy takeout slide during Game 2 of the NLDS. At that press conference Joe babbled on and on about the play all the while failing to offer coherent sentences explaining the definition of a legal slide or what exactly constituted the “neighborhood play” under the rules.

At that time Joe (i.e. The Head of Rules) said he was “digesting” the legality of the slide (probably as Ruben was digesting his hospital food), but he assured fans that Utley would be appropriately disciplined and that MLB owners would discuss potential rule changes during the offseason. Well as we all know, Joe failed to live up to his first promise when he handed Utley a meaningless 2 game suspension that wasn’t even implemented during the series.

However, last week Major League Baseball owners had a chance to make good on the second promise when they met Wednesday and Thursday at some retirement community in Florida for their annual meetings.

And it wasn’t just the rules around takeout slides up for discussion. These rich old coots had a lot to cover including:

  • The DH being used in the National League
  • Discipline for players facing investigations for alleged domestic violence incidents
  • Cardinals hacking scandal against the Astros
  • The “flaws” associated with instant replay review

Anyway after two full days of discussions, the owners had the following to show for it:

  • DH in the NL – No change
  • Domestic violence discipline- No decision
  • Cardinals hacking scandal- No decision
  • Instant replay review- No change
  • And finally on takeout slides…No change

Wow!!!! Talk about unbelievable progress. These guys can really cover some ground in between shuffle board matches.

So there was absolutely no progress whatsoever made on any of the issues on the agenda. After dirty takeout slides ended the season for both Ruben Tejada and Pirates star rookie Jung Ho Kang, the league has decided rather than at least clarify the existing rules it’s better to just let this one play out. Thus ensuring that next season we will almost certainly experience multiple takeout slide related injuries and an equal amount of umpire crews just shrugging and hoping to reach a representative at the MLB Replay Call Center in New York. “Representative!! Rep-re-sentative!!”

In regards to implementing the DH in the NL, Commissioner Manfred offered this incredible insight, “It is the single most important feature that defines the differences between the two leagues.” Ummm wait, wait, slow down. So the DH is something that is different between the American League and the National League? Ok I think I understand. So the rules are not the same right now. Got it. He then added “The most likely result on the designated hitter for the foreseeable future is the status quo.” Gotta love the old status quo.

And by the way, the most hilarious part about the NL considering the implementation of the DH is the main reason behind it. They want to prevent injuries to pitchers. So we have second basemen and shortstops breaking legs and baserunners getting concussions on takeout slides, but we are more concerned about pitchers pulling their hamstrings as they run to first base. Well either way the important thing is that the league decided to do nothing.

The proposed “enhancements” to instant replay, centered on the owners’ desire to change the practice of overturning “safe” calls when it’s determined that the runner has in fact lost contact with the bag. I can’t even begin to try and offer you an explanation for why they want to stop umpires from getting these calls right. I’m guessing it has to do with their favorite pace of play debate. And quite frankly with so many of these owners on the verge of death, I can understand why they are prioritizing speeding games up.

Now it’s not fair to criticize the owners on everything. They did have a few major accomplishments including moving this year’s trade deadline to August 1st to avoid having it on a Sunday and the appointment of salty Cubs co-owner Tom Ricketts to the MLB small council. He will join current Master of Coin Fred Wilpon as another esteemed member of the committee.

And before it was all said and done the focus of the meeting turned to revenue sharing (i.e. a great debate about how the owners planned to split the tab for the entire event).  Obviously Fred Wilpon got up to use the bathroom when the tab was being settled only to return with promises of “getting it next year”.

Reality Check: Stop Praising the Wilpons

So I am a little confused by everything I’m reading from all the Mets beat writers and reporters. Well I guess it’s not that confusing because we know they all work directly or indirectly for the Wilpons. Nevertheless I do think it is important to set the record straight. The consensus in the media seems to be that the most important takeaway of the Cespedes signing is that Met fans can now see that ownership has had their best interests in mind all along. We can finally put all those “false rumors” about the Wilpons financial situation and tendency to meddle in baseball affairs to bed. The media continues to praise ownership for “playing this perfectly”.

Ummmm what the hell is everyone talking about? Are we just going to completely ignore that the following unprecedented conversation took place:

Roc Nation agent: So Yoenis just to be clear. The Nationals are offering you 5 years and 110 million dollars. You are coming off of a career year and this offer reflects your exact market value. And you don’t want to take the offer? You would prefer to take 35 million less?

Cespedes: Yes. I want to stay with the Mets.

Roc Nation: Ok draw up the paperwork.

How can we see this any other way? That exchange has never happened before. In the far more common alternate reality, Cespedes heads to Washingon and we are berating the Wilpons yet again for refusing to pay players what they are worth and refusing to field the best team possible. Even if Cespedes matches his career best numbers from last season in 2016, he isn’t likely to get much more than a 5 year deal at 22 million a season. That’s as good as it gets.

So I’m happy the Wilpons agreed to the 75 million dollar deal. I’m happy the cries of the fan base to bring back Cespedes were finally heard. But let’s not pretend the Wilpons did something special to make this happen. It fell into their damn lap.  Cespedes’ unprecedented decision to take less money and ignore job security is clearly the main reason he’s playing for the team next season. And of course the Wilpon’s willingness to retain the best hitter on the team at a discount. Right. That too. Thanks for that.

Weekly Roundup: Cespedes and Terry’s Lil Bastardo

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Cespedes: Obviously the Cespedes news dominated the weekend. The fan base is ecstatic. I’ve spent half the weekend watching 2015 Cespedes highlights. Dingers on a loop. The only people more excited than the fans are the players.

Thor:

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DeGrom: “We’re definitely excited to have him back on our team. In the little bit of time we had him, he was impressive. So a full season is going to be a lot of fun.”

Alejandro De Aza even responded to speculation that he might be upset about losing his platoon starting job: “Focus is not on individual accomplishments, it’s on winning a championship for the city of New York.”

You think these guys are jacked up? You think they understand the opportunity we have this season?  I just can’t wait for them to get back on the field for Spring Training.

Terry’s Lil Bastardo: Lost in the shuffle this weekend was the official signing of a Bastardo named Antonio. Antonio Bastardo is a baseborn reliever from the Dominican Republic with no lands or titles to his name and a perfect new left-handed setup relief option for Terry Collins. He pitched for the Pirates last season and was fairly dominant to the tune of a 2.98 ERA. He held lefties to a batting average of .138 and righties to .210 and his 10.05 K/9 ranked among the league leaders for relievers.

He’s also a veteran of the NL East having spent six years with the Philadelphia Phillies and has had incredible results against two of the left-handed hitting sluggers in the division (e.g. Freddie Freeman: 0-for-19, Bryce Harper 2-for-12). On the downside, he’s a graduate of Biogenesis University, and his association with the Biogenesis “anti-aging” clinic led to him serving a 50 game suspension in 2013. However, all those massages and facial treatments obviously served him well as he’s excelled since that time.

Final Notes: Bastardo’s a great addition to the Mets pen and according to the Mets we may not be done adding relief pitchers. No word on exactly who else we might add, but it’s possible we could bring back Tyler “Rat Face” Clippard in a setup role. He’s obviously looking for a multi-year contract, but perhaps we could entice him to take a one year deal for 8 million dollars and a giant block of cheese.

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Whether we stand pat or add another arm to the pen, with Cespedes on the roster this team is stacked and clearly ready to rumble. As David Wright said, “Yoenis wants to be here to finish what we started.” Clearly the players know 2016 is all about unfinished business.

Cespedes Re-signs: The Savior Has Returned

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Rejoice Mets fans! Our savior has returned.

It’s not easy to completely change the outlook for and performance of a baseball team. Yet that’s exactly what Yoenis Cespedes did almost overnight when he arrived on July 31st 2015. His offensive talent represented something Mets fans hadn’t seen since Carlos Beltran and before that Mike Piazza. His post trade offensive numbers speak for themselves. 17 home runs. .942 OPS. 57 games. He catapulted a near .500 team to 90 wins and took the offense from worst to first. But it wasn’t his talent, the eventual NL East crown, or the run to the World Series that had the greatest impact on the franchise. It was what his acquisition meant. He gave fans a glimmer of hope. He represented the possibility that the culture of hopelessness fostered by the post-Madoff Wilpons was finally over. This was the first piece of evidence that fans could point to in order to show that Fred and Jeff were finally going to fulfill their promise to open their wallets once the pitching talent arrived at Citi-Field.

And today after nearly three months of Mets fans breaking the internet with #signCespedes #keepYo our prayers were answered. Today represents the biggest victory to date over the tyrannical reign of the Wilpons. Fred and Jeff tried everything in their power to prevent this day. They made their case: unwavering stances against long term deals, BS excuses about Cespedes’ dugout chain smoking habits, allusions that he was a diva. But in the end all it took was 3 months of relentless pressure from the fan-base and Cespedes’ unprecedented decision to pass on a $100 million dollar deal. He passed on a long term deal. Think about that. The only reason he is here is because he became the first player since Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire to pass on the guaranteed deal and bet on himself. And even Cuba only passed because he was getting low-balled.

I’ve seen players take “pillow contracts” when they are coming off an injury or after a subpar season when there’s a limited market for their services. I have even seen hometown discounts like the one Alex Gordon just took where the player passes on a few million dollars or takes one less year to make a deal happen. But nobody has ever passed on a deal for the money they wanted and for the years they wanted, from a team in the same part of the country as the one they were on, or with a championship caliber roster. Why? For seemingly no reason other than “Me gusta Nueva York y Los Mets.” But Cespedes did. Nearly four months after arriving in New York and saving our season he has returned to do it yet again. He has returned so Mets fans can finally flip off the Wilpons with a smug grin on their faces and scream “YES WE CAN.” He has returned to serve as the face of the franchise and take the pressure of our elite pitchers so they can finally just dominate in peace. So soak in this moment folks. Channel your inner Cespedes and light up a toasty rich Marlboro Red cigarette. Breathe it in deep– this may finally be our chance to reach the Promised Land for the first time in 30 years.

There’s ice on CitiField tonight. And with the return of La Potencia and the Wilpons finally cutting a check it appears hell has finally frozen over.