Mets are winning, but all is not right

After watching the 2018 Mets start the season like a house on fire only to watch the season go off the rails, faithful fans are careful not to get excited about early success. We won the first two games of the season because we always do (or at least seemingly) and swept the Marlins on the road as we should as they’re the worst team in the National League. Losing our home opener was not surprising given that the team reportedly landed home at 3:00 am the morning of the day game (hat tip to those same brilliant schedulers who carefully coordinated all those snow-outs last year).  At this moment, at 5-2, we sit atop the standings. The offense has had some exciting moments and Jacob deGrom has the best arm on planet earth, but, if you’ve been watching closely, you should have some concerns about this team. Here are five of them.

  1. This team might not be able to win with Mickey Callaway as the manager. He’s a super nice guy and the players like him. Last year we all cut him slack. He was a first year manager in a new league, with a flawed team. This year, he’s got experience, the support of a respected bench coach and a much improved roster with which to work. But what good is a stronger bullpen and a deeper bench if Callaway doesn’t know how to use them? In the first week of the season, we’ve seen him bench the hot hitting Jeff McNeil, play weak-hitting/fielding reserve J.D. Davis way too much, pinch run for Wilson Ramos at the wrong times, misuse and waste pinch hitters, leave middle relievers in too long, and put the closer in at the wrong time. Somehow, his bumbling moves haven’t cost us a game yet. Why is bench coach Jim Riggleman or the front office not guiding these decisions more? Unless they can help him see the light, Callaway’s going to start costing us games and himself a job. The honeymoon is over and Callaway was not Brodie Van Wagenen’s hire. BVW carefully assembled this team to win now and won’t stand by and let an ill-equipped manager hurt the team’s chances for success, especially with a perfect interim manager candidate sitting right there in the dugout.
  2. The other starting pitchers need to step up. deGrom has been out-of-this-world, picking up where he left off in his Cy Young season. As for the rest of the starters, meh. A five-inning start is okay for fifth starter Jason Vargas, but the others need to give us six or seven each time out. Last year Steven Matz showed us he can stay healthy. This year he needs to show us he can pitch. His location and pitch selection both leave something to be desired. Zack Wheeler hopefully will bounce back from a mediocre first start and get back to pitching the way he did in the second half of 2018. Noah Syndergaard maybe just needs to get accustomed to working with Wilson Ramos. For how good his stuff is, he’s pitching to too many deep counts and not allowing himself to go deep in games. Too many foul balls and not enough out pitches from him so far.
  3. The bullpen hasn’t lived up to the hype. Last year’s bullpen was a nightmare, especially in the second half after we traded away Jeurys Familia. This year’s crew, with Familia back in the fold, plus the additions of superstar closer Edwin Diaz and the experienced lefties Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan, was supposed to be a team strength. Not the case, so far. Familia has been really good and, other than his one big mistake, Wilson has been good. Diaz has been misused by the manager, as has Seth Lugo who was overused when he was reportedly fighting an illness. Robert Gsellman looks plain awful so far, as does the sporadically used Avilan. Injuries wiped out some of our expected AAA reserves for the bullpen but there are still a few guys who could be swapped in if needed.
  4. Not everyone is hitting. The offense has been fun to watch with two-out rallies, opposite field hitting and the quick emergence of rookie Pete Alonso. Ramos has been a monster at the plate. Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario have gotten hits and Dom Smith has been a spark plug as a pinch hitter. After a big opening day, Robinson Cano has gone cold. Other than one big hit Juan Lagares looks bad. Keon Broxton looks pretty good but hasn’t played much. If this continues, he could swap places with Lagares. Brandon Nimmo looks like he forgot how to hit, striking out 14 times in 23 at bats. Davis looks exposed and over-matched. That he’s out of options could create a wrinkle for the front office when Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie return from the injured list.
  5. Front office decisions are looming. With Frazier and Travis d’Arnaud due to come back soon and Lowrie in a few weeks, the front office is going to have to make some tough decisions about the roster. Sending Tomas Nido down to AAA is the easy one. In fact, given that he’s the fifth best catcher in the system it’s hard to understand why he made the opening day roster. d’Arnaud will soon take his place, but Rene Rivera should be anointed the third catcher as soon as he’s ramped up and ready. Nido is not a Major League player. Given the injury histories of both d’Arnaud and Ramos, the third catcher will likely see plenty of big league at bats. d’Arnaud’s extended spring training/injured list stay gave the front office an easy way to keep Devin Mesoraco in the fold, but they inexplicably chose to give him the shaft in favor of a maybe slightly better defensive catcher who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Mesoraco is currently in limbo but will presumably be off the roster either by trade, release or retirement before long. Rivera will take his place and will be needed. Luis Guillorme, who has a great glove and showed he can hit in spring training, has gotten one measly at bat as the emergency shortstop reserve – kind of a waste of a roster spot. He has options remaining but will certainly be sent down to make room for Lowrie. Todd Frazier’s return is the tricky one. Davis and Broxton are out of options. Dom Smith deserves a better fate. He’s in great shape, has a great attitude and has been playing well. Demoting him would fly in the face of the meritocracy that van Waganen has been promoting. What then? Stay tuned.

22 comments for “Mets are winning, but all is not right

  1. NYM6986
    April 5, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Great post and spot on in many areas. Mets still also missing a bat that opposing pitchers fear standing at the plate like Cespedes. Expect Cano to ramp back up and for Chili Davis this be working full-time with Nimmo who at this point should be hitting at the other end of the lineup until his bat starts making contact with the ball. Frasure, Lowrie and tDa will make us much stronger than who sits on our bench. Let’s also remember that we are a very young team thankfully. Rather be 5-2 than 2-5. MLB should have drug tested players after the home opener and not when they were trying to leave Miami late at night with a Day game on tap the next day. A grievance would appear in order. Hopefully Matz remembers to keep the ball down tomorrow as we need him to be strong.

  2. Metsense
    April 5, 2019 at 9:04 am

    I agree that all is not right.
    Callaway’s managing decisions are very questionable. His use of the bullpen leads me believe that were are on the path as last year’s collapse. He uses his first tier of relievers in non-hold and no-save situations. It leads to bullpen burn out. Matz and Vargas are serviceable back end of the rotation pitchers. It is what it is. The front office will need to open their wallets in order to upgrade their starting pitching. Broxton brings an all around better game than Lagares. Nimmo is lost in the woods but I believe he has a compass. TDA should not have been offered a contract and Mesoraco should be the back up catcher. Brian posted yesterday that Davis has options and is playing like he has a bus ticket for Syracuse, but it should be a round trip ticket . Don’t fret the pending roster crunch because they rarely occur and we fans will talk about them as they occur. Matt, you and I are usually ompitimists but we both have lingering doubts for the Calloway regime.

  3. TexasGusCC
    April 5, 2019 at 9:25 am

    As Metsense said, Davis has options and should be the first to go. Nido was put on the roster a few years back rather than expose him to the Rule 5, and now they’re stuck with him there. But, this year is his last option year so he is on the path of career minor leaguer because it’s hard to see too many, if any, teams having the space on their 25 man roster to allocate to such a light hitting catcher.

    • April 5, 2019 at 9:40 am

      Gus, uh Nido was drafted by the Mets so no rule 5 anything.

      • TexasGusCC
        April 5, 2019 at 3:41 pm

        To not be exposed to Rule 5. I believe that’s what I wrote.

  4. MattyMets
    April 5, 2019 at 11:44 am

    I think I ranted about this in one of the game chatters, but Nido does not swing a bat like a major leaguer. He looks like he decides whether he’s going to swing before the pitch is thrown, throws his bat through the strike zone and hopes to make contact. It’s how I envision what I would do if given the chance to face a big league pitcher. Defensively, he’s solid but it’s not like he’s Benito Santiago back there.

    Speaking of which I could have added another point about controlling the running game. Trea Turner was having a field day with us. I don’t think we’ve thrown out a runner yet except for Noah’s pick off.

  5. Chris F
    April 5, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Not even 10 games in and my team of eternal ultra-optimists are already starting to frown. A couple thoughts.

    1. What makes you think the FO is *not* involved with whats going on for decision making. At the very least Riggleman is for sure, but bet money that so is BVW. Callaway wasnt his hire, and so Im even more certain that BVW has a daily footprint about on-field decision making.

    2. The lack of starting pitching depth was apparent last year, and was apparent this year. Opening the season with any expectation at all for Matz and Vargas is overly optimistic. Wheeler has no established track record of success, and pretending his last bit of last year was a harbinger of great things is overly presumptuous. Everyone thinks Syndergaard is somehow an “ace” but he is not even close. He’s a fine pitcher, but a mile short of deGrom. There remains issues with starting pitching.

    3. The bullpen is nothing but hype. Its *nowhere* as good as its made out to be. I think its about what I expected. Im less worried about Lugo because he got quite ill, but Wilson, Peterson, Avilan, Gsellman are all completely disposable pieces of little value. They represent this year’s version of Beato, Torres, Rauch, and fill in the blank. Dont expect more, beciase there isnt more behind the curtain.

    4. The Mets have been terrible hitters, and particularly at home, where they have the worst offensive record of any team in the MLB. I expect things to improve, so dont worry just yet, but the Ks are nauseating.

    5. This is a team filled with 1 (or less) WAR players. No tears need to fall when any number are sent packing.

    • Metsense
      April 5, 2019 at 7:08 pm

      I am not ☹. The Mets are in first place. I am happy. I would say I am an optimist and a realist but I am not a citizen of Panic City , Mr. Mayor.

    • Jennifer
      April 5, 2019 at 8:34 pm

      Re: Lugo

      Is it possible he hasn’t been good because he didn’t pitch enough in ST? He was not stretched out because they planned for him to work out of BP this season exclusively. I know he’s been sick, but did not being stretched out kind of screw him here since he always prepared as a starter before, which is maybe what provided the elasticity that made him so successful last year? I don’t know. Thoughts?

  6. Bugsy
    April 5, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    While I certainky agree about Mickey callaway’s questionable moves,
    I would not want the fronf office interfering.
    Brodie vandekamp volkswagen is an agent turned gm.
    He’s not a baseball strategist.

  7. April 5, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    Chilli’s approach has sapped the Mets of their power so far

    • Bob P
      April 5, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      If they keep averaging over 5 runs per game, I’ll learn to live with it!

      • April 5, 2019 at 2:38 pm

        They won’t keep up with a sky high babip

  8. MattyMets
    April 5, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    I hope that I was mistaken about Davis being out of options because swapping him for Frazier is a big upgrade, defensively at least.

  9. Mike Walczak
    April 5, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    I love this. Last year, we were what, 10-1 to start ? We were ready to print World Series tickets. Now, we are 5-2 to start and after seven games, we are doing a deep dive. This is awesome, it shows all of the emotion of being a diehard fan.

    Lets see what their record is at the end of May. This is a very tough division.

  10. Eraff
    April 5, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    OMG!!!!!

  11. TJ
    April 5, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    Actually, the Mets can use some more Ks. As in Kimbrel and Kuechel.

    Every year, every team has guys going well and guys not going well. It is part of the charm and intrigue of the game. I do agree the pen has some risk, and until they prove otherwise, the Mets are a poor offensive team at Citifield and in day games after night games. But, hey, the NL East should be hotly contested this season, and that should be fun. The Mets, with blemishes and flaws, have a good shot.

    • José
      April 5, 2019 at 9:17 pm

      You mean K1 & K2 are still available? WTF, I mean wtf are they waiting for? Adding K2 would automatically give the Metsies the best rotation in all of MLB, and with K1, Diaz and Familia, the deepest back end of a bullpen as well!

      Do it! Dammit Jim, it’s just monopoly money!

      • Mike Walczak
        April 5, 2019 at 10:47 pm

        I agree, sign them now. You need to be in it to win it. Last series win was a third of a century ago.

  12. MattyMets
    April 6, 2019 at 11:14 am

    McNeil is out of the lineup in favor of Brockton and Davis. Davis is batting cleanup. Who is setting these lineups?!

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