As General Manager Sandy Alderson takes stock of his roster and its many holes, question marks, and uncertainties, he can take solace in knowing that at least he’s learned five valuable lessons this season. This knowledge should help inform the many complex decisions and judgments he’ll need to make in the coming off-season…assuming that is, that he decides to re-up his contract and take on this festering conundrum.

1 – These are pitchers, hitters, and fielders, not linebackers and lineman who need to hulk up with heavy weight-training. This writer previously pegged the blame on strength trainer Mike Barwis, but yesterday’s NY Post article disputes this theory. According to Alderson, Noah Syndergaard packing on 17 pounds of muscle in the off-season and Yoenis Cespedes attempting to leg press a UPS truck, or the near equivalent in weight, was of their own inclination. If that’s the case, these fellas need a talking to about switching to regimens that focus on flexibility and endurance more than brute strength. Also, inviting a yoga instructor to spring training might not be the worst idea.
2- There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth. With seemingly seven healthy starting pitchers in spring training, plus Rafael Montero, the Mets’ brass thought it prudent to create roster space by unloading Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa for nothing, or close to it, in return. The AAA Las Vegas 51’s couldn’t remain competitive all year without a decent rotation. And, more importantly, either Verrett or Ynoa would have been a better option than some of the guys we trotted out this season – Adam Wilk! Tyler Pill! Tommy Milone! Chris Flexen! Given the fragility of Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Seth Lugo, and the uncertainty of Robert Gsellman, and Matt Harvey, it’s absurd to enter another season under the same mistaken notion that “surely five of these guys can be healthy and effective.” One solution is to offer non-guaranteed contracts to some veterans with something to prove and/or scan the transaction wires for pitchers released in Spring Training. A better idea might be to sign a proven commodity to slot into the middle of the rotation and let some of the aforementioned battle for the last two spots and serve as the depth themselves. If by some miracle, everyone is healthy, well then, whoopie do – trade bait!
3 – Three reliable arms does not a bullpen make. Jeurys Familia‘s injury would not have been nearly as crippling had Fernando Salas and Hansel Robles pitched as well as they did last year. Bullpen arms are funny that way. But seeing Robles enter the game with the bases loaded four times this season only to crap all over the box score each time like a sea gull on a beach blanket is no laughing matter. Familia, A.J. Ramos, and Jerry Blevins is a nice start, but this pen needs two more big arms. All those other guys that have had moments can compete for the last few spots or rotate in and out depending on who’s healthy and hot. Nothing crushes win streaks and team morale faster than a bad bullpen. As an added bonus, bullpen arms make great trade chips as we learned with Addison Reed who’s half season of closing fetched a better return than Jay Bruce‘s 34 home runs (and counting).
4 – Defense matters. It keeps games close and gives young pitchers confidence. We can already see the upgrade with Dom Smith and Amed Rosario over Lucas Duda and Asdrubal Cabrera. It sure would be nice to compliment them with a third baseman who could consistently throw across the diamond and a second baseman who can smoothly turn a double play.
5 – The Nationals really are that good. They finally have a serviceable bullpen to pair with their strong rotation and their top half of the lineup is among the best in baseball. They have power, speed, and guys who can get on base. Not only will this team be back for more next year, but they’ll finally be rid of Jayson Werth‘s albatross contract and Adam Eaton will be back (did you forget they had him too?). The good news is that the Phillies are terrible, the Marlins have no pitching in sight and the Braves, unless they spend a fortune this off-season, still have a ways to go in their rebuild.

11 comments on “5 Lessons learned from a lost Mets’ season

  • Jimmy P

    Braves minor league system is commonly ranked as #1 overall. Don’t know the timing, but they will rise quickly.

    And I think at a certain point the Phils are going to start trying, too.

    It’s going to get harder in the NL East.

    I do take note of Dominic Smith’s September hitting. Not sure what to make of it, I’m skeptical, but he’s absolutely been getting hits and HRs. I keep flashing on Butch Huskey hitting 24 HRs with a slow bat. Probably not a fair comp to make. I guess the best thing is to sit back and watch and hope and wait.

    • Chris F

      …dont forget the trip to the buffet line

  • DED

    Many years ago someone, I forget who, reasoned that while baseball players frequently suffer from pulled hamstrings and the like, professional basketball seldom do, largely because, he figured, so much of their running was running backwards — getting into defensive position and such. He thought was that baseball players should add a large dose of backwards running into their training regimin.

    I’m thinking of Cespedes and the huge investment he represents for the Mets of course. Personally I would be more than ready to try something with even a scrap of logic holding it up.

    • MattyMets

      DED – not sure if it’s part of the regular routine but I saw Mets pitchers doing the backwards jog in the outfield during spring training a couple years ago. I always noted that as well that NBA players get hurt far less often. Mostly ankles and the occasional knee or back, but hammies are rare and all this elbow and shoulder stuff is unheard of. Pro basketball players are tremendous athletes.

      • Jimmy P

        Baseball is unique because there’s a lot of standing around punctuated by sudden bursts of all-out speed. That’s the problem.

        An unholy mix of static and kinetic energy.

        I do believe that the muscle-bound era is part of the problem. Players don’t look like Kevin McReynolds anymore, but they used to. A little fat, a little soft, but an athlete underneath.

        When Piazza had that horrific hamstring pull, late in his career, I saw that as a function of the steroid era. The body just too maxed out.

        I don’t know. Think at least 14 thoroughbreds died at Saratoga this past season. Pushed beyond their limit.

        In terms of exercises, jogging backwards, dynamic warm-ups, they all already know all about this stuff.

        It is the Dark Ages when teams allow their players to go off the reservation and do whatever workouts they want. You couldn’t do that on a good HS lacrosse team. There were be a program, a conditioning plan. The Mets are living in the 1950s, giving Cespedes $27 million a year and then letting him work out without proper guidance and enlightened supervision? I think we’ll see a revolution in sports medicine in the near future. And no, the Mets won’t be at the forefront of it.

        • Eraff

          Correct all around Jimmy—lots of Standing, Squatting, Sitting (Spitting, Scratching)…and then…..Sprinting

        • MattyMets

          Jimmy P – Kevin McReynolds and his farmhand strong physique was ironically married to a body builder. Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda both fit that mold but the latter at least has had his share of DL stays. I think you’re spot on about the stand still and then sprint issue because outfielders seem especially susceptible to the hamstring pulls.

          Pitchers are another issue. They should be running, long tossing, stretching and lifting light weights (circuit training), never benching hundreds of pounds like Thor.

  • Chris F

    I still find it astounding that Cespedes was somehow allowed to not hydrate leading to all sorts of issues with electrolyte loss. He doesnt like water, or gatorade, or whatever…really?

    I agree, a good college sports team would have a year round training plan.

    Anyway, the recent full on advocacy of Barwis and the rest of the medical staff continues the path that nothing is wrong no matter what we see. The problem that anyone can see is that something is missing in injury prevention regardless of post injury assessment. Is Alderson just good at selecting broken athletes beyond a basic average? Or are the Mets not good at getting players to train (or practice) properly and avoid injury?

  • Pete In Iowa

    Nice piece Matt. All of what you have pointed out is certainly valid.
    However, I think the Mets made their biggest mistake over the winter — they made not one change to the 2016 roster. Good organizations almost never do such a thing since the dawn of the free agent era. In today’s game, clubs are always looking at ways to improve their roster, especially over the winter. Trades are always there to be made and free agents are available in large numbers. Look at the Gnats, Dodgers and Cubs. All very successful in 2016 and all made major changes to their rosters in 2017. Look at where they are today. On the other end of the spectrum, the Giants did next to nothing to remake their roster. And look at them now — probably worse off than we are, if that is even possible.
    As in so many other areas of life, if you are not improving you are falling behind. When they broke camp with virtually the same 25 guys as in 2016, I knew the Mets were doomed for 2017.

    • Jimmy P

      I hardly saw them as doomed (thought they’d win 91 and compete for WC), but I didn’t like it either. Thought the starting rotation would carry them through. Shoot me now.

      “He not busy being born is busy dying.” — Dylan.

  • Metsense

    These are all good points. I think they need another top of the rotation pitcher not just a veteran arm to eat innings and another solid back end relief pitcher. The training program should be re-evaluated and monitored. The goal should always be a division championship with the play-in being the consolation prize.

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