Young Men With A Future

Well at least some worthy candidates are ascending to higher office around here.

The Mets on Friday added five young players to fill empty spots on their 40-man roster, protecting them from poachers at the forthcoming Rule 5 draft and technically, initiating the moment at which they are assigned a big-league uni number.

A quick glance at the Mets roster online indicates that last bit hasn’t happened yet so keep an eye out. In the meantime let’s welcome outfielder Wuilmer Becerra; catcher Tomas Nido; shortstop Amed Rosario; and pitchers Marcos Molina and Chris Flexen to the club.

1If you want to handicap these assignments, it’s a safe bet the Mets will issue Rosario No. 1, matching both his rank of their prospects list and his Binghamton jersey. Helps also that Justin Ruggiano was outrighted recently. The others are down far enough in the minors still to establish much of a numerical identity: Molina was spotted most recently wearing 45 in Arizona Fall League action. St. Lucie teammates Becerra, Nido and Flexen wore 32, 13 and 33, respectively, this past season.

29You can’t protect everyone so some say that pitching prospects Ricky Knapp and Paul Sewald, and outfielder Champ Stewart, are vulnerable to selection in the Rule 5 draft.

In part to make room for these guys the Mets have not only outrighted Ruggiano, but Eric Campbell and Jim Henderson. Campbell reportedly has a deal to play play for Hanshin in the Japan League next season. Sayonara, Soupy.

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Bye Bye Bart

40As you know by now, Bartolo Colon has signed a 2017 contract with the Braves, where he’ll join fellow new arrival R.A. Dickey as a veteran dynamic duo we may well encounter when the Mets open the 2017 season against Atlanta in April.

Colon can’t be blamed for seeking a regular starting gig as he pursues a few personal milestones: He needs 10 wins to catch Juan Marichal for the all-time lead among Dominican pitchers, and 12 to surpass Dennis Martinez and become the winningest Latin American pitcher of all-time. I speak for all Mets fans wishing him the best of luck most nights, anyway.

I had no idea what to expect of Colon when he arrived as a 40-year-old ostensibly to hold Matt Harvey’s place in the rotation in 2014, and would not have predicted he’d depart three years later having set the all-time mark for wins (44) and strikeouts (415) among guys who wore No. 40 (Pat Zachry was the prior king and still leads this club in losses). Colon was a surprising guy all around, obviously a better athlete than he looked to be and a fun presence who really helped the Mets especially this last year. We’ll miss him!

20That’s the first significant departure of what’s looking to be an interesting offseason for the Mets. At the moment I cannot picture a scenario that doesn’t involve a significant trade or two. Briefly I’m sort of rooting against a return engagement for Neil Walker but can’t see how he’ll turn down that $17 million waiting for him, and if he takes it that’ll put a strain on the budget to re-engage Cespedes, so I suppose if the Mets want Walker they can do so with a compromise kind of multiyear deal, and just maybe, prepare him for a kind of caddy deal where his switch-hittingness becomes valuable for the bench while ushering in Gavin Cecchini who keeps on hitting.

While pursuit of a new deal for Cespedes could be hair raising it could be argued that the club already has the next-best available outfielder of a relatively weak class in Jay Bruce, and so I’m rooting for Sandy and the guys to make hay of this and surprise us.

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Flying High

63Thanks to prompts by MBTN reader Chris, and through the power of
the Ultimate Mets Database, and ultimately, to the health woes of the Mets vaunted starting 5 pitchers, we were indeed able to confirm that the Mets set all kinds of new records for Highest Combined Uni Number Lineup this past month.

First, a bit of context: The “records” we previously discussed here were only as good as the research backing it up, which until now involved diving blindly into thousands of daily lineups by hand with an eye on target-rich environments (the early years for low lineups, Sean Estes starts for high). Because MBTN was and still is the only outlet in the world that bothered to look up such info those records, these treasure hunts were the record, as far as anyone knew.

We can confirm today that our previous high-water mark of 274 (May 30, 2004) has been obliterated by the 2016 Mets several times over. As
Chris mentioned, they hit 278 on Sept. 30, but the new clubhouse leader is a whopping 324, set on Sept. 18 vs. the Twins:

16 DeAza

54 Rivera

52 Cespedes

30 Conforto

55 Johnson

18 d’Arnaud

21 Duda

15 Reynolds

63 Ynoa

It was a big month for big numbers. They hit 287 on Sept. 28, 285 on Sept. 25, etc. etc.

We’ll dig into the lowest numbers in another post soon!

 

 

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Amazin’!

Well, they did it.

21Exactly five weeks ago today (you could look it up!) I posited that in order for the Mets to get into the postseason they’d need to win 21 of their remaining 33 games. That seemed like a longshot if not the impossibility it would have appeared less than two weeks before that, but I’ll be dagnabbed if they didn’t win their 21st on Saturday and clinch the playoffs at the very same time.

You could look it up.

I’m not taking a personal victory lap here — my supposed experience and perspective on uni numbers was proven wrong this year over and over and over again this year — but rather, I’m surprised that of all the expectations of the season this was the one that came true. My general feeling on any season’s prospects is get to 10 games over .500 first, then I can consider the possibility of going all-in. The Mets of course knocked on that door early in the season and then again late, but didn’t reach that plateau to stay until late last week.

10That means we’re as hot as can be headed into Wednesday’s win-or-go-home showdown. And though anything can happen I’m taking some solace in the fact that we were there last season, and even if you argue that was a better club (more starting pitching depth, a better track record in having proven they belonged since April vs. since September) I’m recalling the 2000 club, which by almost any measure was inferior to their 1999 predecessors but who got considerably further in the postseason due in part to the psychic experience of having gotten there the first time. So I’m optimistic. I think Terry Collins deserves Manager of the Year after I slogged him only a few weeks ago.

Meantime I’m checking on Chris’ comment below that the 2016ers have likely surpassed the “record” of the highest-combined-uni starting lineup we’d found prior to this year, the 274 we threw up on April 4, 2012. I’m on it!

 

 

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Ten!

As I’ve said all year if and when they puncture that 10-games-over plateau, maybe the temperature rises.

Well. Here we are on September 18, and there they are, and I guess I’m all in.

10Here’s another weird thing. When in the same post I suggested a 21-12 finish over their last 33 games was what they would need I hadn’t realized that was also their precise record through their first 33 games. That day (May 11 after a 4-3 win in Los Angeles), the Mets reached nine games over .500 for the second time in the young season. They were also nine games up at 20-11 two days before.

The Mets this season in fact knocked on the Magical 10-games-over barrier eight times before finally breaking down the door last night: May 9 (20-11); the aforementioned May 11 (21-12); May 27 (28-19); July 7 (47-38); then a long break till four more tries — Sept. 9 (75-66); Sept. 11 (76-67); Sept. 13 (77-68) and Sept. 19 (78-69).

 

As for my 21-12 goal, they’re on their way at 12-6 though the first 18, and just 9 of the last 15.

Figuring out who pitches Game 4 of the division series requires a whole different set of complicated arithmetic, but I’m glad today has arrived. Onward!

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Forty Weight

2The Mets have reached reached Labor Day still very much in the playoff hunt even as the composition of the club continues to change, and seemingly, not always for the better. It’s a stretch to suggest it might be a good thing Harvey, deGrom and Matz are unavailable right now but Gsellman, Lugo and Montero appear to be up to the task, and, more importantly, the club’s finally hitting again, which is no small thing. I’ve stopped trying to figure this year out.

Adding to this odd group this week is a small army of returnees from the minors. Matt Reynolds made a spectacular reappearance on Labor Day; expected to arrive today are Montero, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Eric Campbell, John Edgin and Eric Goeddel — the last three guys just for the laughs I think, and all of them, I suspect, back into their previously assigned unis. I don’t even think I knew Rivera was back down again.

72And arriving for the first time, infielder Gavin Cecchini. As the team’s 2012 top draft pick, Cecchini has the pedigree to assume to vacant No. 2 but given the Mets’ practice this year we shouldn’t be surprised if he arrives wearing 72, which he had last during Spring Training.

 

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Send Me an Angel

59The Mets following Wednesday’s victory over the sinking Marlins said they have acquired veteran right-handed reliever Fernando Salas from the Angels in exchange for Class A pitcher Erik Manoah. Salas, a one-time closer with the Cardinals and currently serving that role part-time in Anaheim, is expected to add depth to the “7th-inning” level of the Met bullpen, where Hansel Robles and Jim Henderson have encountered recent struggles.

49Salas has worn No. 59 in both St. Louis and in Anaheim, although that figure currently belongs to Josh Smoker. It would seem an awful lot of work to accommodate him but it could be done if Smoker goes back to the 49 he was issued when he first arrived, or grabs one of the few remaining unassigned numbers (2, 46, 53, 58). More likely though we’ll see Salas in one of those.

00Here’s a suggestion though. What if they took advantage of SALAS’ palindromic qualities and gave him a number that looks the same frontward and backward? 00?

Salas’ arrival by the way ensures he can be post-season eligible, as can the four guys the Mets have already announced are getting recalls from Class AAA Vegas: Michael Conforto (30), Kevin Plawecki (26), Ty Kelly (56) and Gabriel Ynoa (63). With news that Neil Walker is also likely to be out for the rest of the year you wonder if or when Gavin Cecchini gets a call but perhaps this is T.J. Rivera’s time to shine.

Four games into the below mentioned “21-12” scenario, the Mets are 3-1 and sure enough are making the progress they have to towards the playoffs but my pennant fever at this point is still just an itchy rash. As I’ve said all year if and when they puncture that 10-games-over plateau, maybe the temperature rises.

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Let the Banners Be Unfurled

65Hey guys I’m back from a week off during which I was witness to Robert Gsellman’s heroic major league debut which also marked the first appearance of a No. 65 in team history.

50Gso far, gso gsood for Gsellman, but we’re going to need his contributions beginning today in the finale against Philly not to mention a few other guys suddenly thrown into the deep end — remember Rafael Montero? He made a brief appearance in May and is being recalled from Class AA to make Monday’s start opposite Jose Fernandez in Miami. Seth Lugo goes Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday’s starters are listed TBA and TBA, respectively. Yikes.

It’s all about the offense for the time being, but with Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker still battling lingering injuries and Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson both struggling, who knows how sustainable this latest run can be. The Mets have 33 games left beginning today (8 with Philly; 7 with Miami; 6 with Atlanta and Washington; and 3 each with Cincy and Minnesota). Could the SHaMs pull a Rush and go 21-12? That could do it.

36Thanks by the way to reader Jimmy who pointed out the database and latest edition of the MBTN book overlooked the phantom Met, Al Reyes, the ex-Tampa closer who appeared on the roster in September on 2008 but never appeared in a game before being released later that month. Reyes, as we noted then, was assigned 36 but somehow was unable to even get a turn as a reliever on that squad. I have tried very hard to get September of 2008 out of my mind — the frenzied destruction of Shea amid a second-straight choke that marked the true beginning of a rotten stretch of baseball and team stewardship that lasted for five long years.

Thanks Jimmy! We’ll reluctantly update the database.

Go Mets…

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Snakebitten, Baby

48Unless you had the good sense to turn in early last early night you know nothing so sums up what the 2016 season has become than last night’s events in San Francisco, when a shocking Met hit with men on base — from Justin Ruggiano of all people, off Madison Friggin Bumgarner of all people, a grand slam to center field, of all things — was given all back and more within minutes — by Jacob deGrom of all people, on a two-run homer by Bumgarner of all people, in a 10-7 loss showing the Mets are practically determined to go wrong even when everything is arranged to go right.

52So don’t get too excited to learn tonight’s contest is expected to include the return of injured soldiers Yoenis Cespedes and Asbrubal Cabrera, and maybe even Neil Walker, because it also accompanies news that scheduled starting pitcher Steven Matz won’t be there, because, naturally, he’s being shut down with shoulder trouble.

When Fred Wilpon idiotically pitied his half-assededly assembled 2011 squad by remarking, “We’re snakebitten, baby,” he was off by five years.

I’m not officially giving up yet — I need something to pretend to root for when I fly my family to St. Louis next week just to see these guys — but it’s clear this edition of the Mets is going to require not just something miraculous, but something it hasn’t satisfactorily demonstrated any ability to do all year: Play well.

66Is there good news? Well, Josh Edgin is getting sent back to the minor leagues where he belongs after that shitshow in Phoenix the other night — again, if you turned in early, he not only walked the whole lineup but evidently was too fat to bother hustling in to retrieve his own wild pitch for a potential play at the plate. In his place is Josh Smoker, who will need a new uni assignment after the 49 he wore in a phantom appearance a few weeks back was taken back by Jon Niese, who like Edgin but hopefully not like Smoker, appears to be a lefty of limited value any longer.

How about we give Smokey 66? That’ll teach ’em. Not Joshin’.

UPDATE: He’s in 59. Naturally.

 

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Ynoa the Drill

63Another AAA pitcher has appeared on the big-league roster, taking his spring training number with him. Last night it was Gabriel Ynoa, who not only threw a scoreless inning in his big-league debut but earning the win while doing so surpassed his only predecessor in the jersey, Chris Schwinden for most victories by a guy wearing No. 63.

Ynoa (63) follows the recent pattern of AAA callups simply retaining their spring numbers upon initial promotion — Eric Goeddel (62); Akeel Morris (64); Josh Smoker (49); Ty Kelly (55, now 56) and Seth Lugo (67). Along with a concurrent willingness to dress even non-pitchers in high jerseys (T.J. Rivera 54, Kelly Johnson 55), the Mets are likely running their highest average uni count ever, though I haven’t looked that up.

35To make room for Ynoa the Mets demoted Logan Verrett, who hung in there for awhile as the fifth starter — it seemed like every outing was a must-win for him — but he didn’t go and lose all by himself until his most recent starts. Jose Reyes also came back, costing Matt Reynolds his role as starting shortstop. Reynolds showed he get into one every once in a while, but those whiffs are a little much to hang in a pennant race with.

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