By: Jordan Silver

2016: Swing and A Miss

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Full disclosure: I hate divisional play – in all sports. If I had my way the top teams, by record, would make the playoffs. If I were the commissioner of hockey or basketball I would have the top 16 teams – regardless of division or conference – make the playoffs. The best team would play the worst and then you would re-seed so that the highest ranked remaining teams would play the lowest until you could get to a dream matchup of the top team playing the second ranked team.

In 2010 the Seattle Seahawks (7-9) as NFC West champions made the playoffs while my New York Giants (10-6, second in East) stayed home. Mind you I didn’t complain, however, when the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011 after a 9-7 season. Certainly the 1997 Marlins didn’t forfeit the World Series (before breaking up the team) as a wildcard. But I digress.

I understand why there is divisional and conference play. In baseball we saw whole decades where one league dominated the All-Star game or the World Series. In other sports the Western Conference would dominate the East. Then it would reverse. Divisional play keeps geographical interest.

This year, as in most years, the trade deadline had a flurry of questionable moves as teams looked to forge identities. That team in the Bronx (the name escapes me) decided they were sellers. They traded two thirds of their vaunted bullpen, their starting right fielder/DH, dangled their catcher and quietly allowed their struggling DH to be released/retire (whomever you believe) mid-season. Devoting themselves to a youth movement, they set their sights toward 2017 with the goal of jumping back into the playoff fray.

Our Mets, however, decided that they were buyers. A strong attempt was made to land Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy (went to the Rangers) while landing Reds’ slugger Jay Bruce. Lost in the Bruce transaction was prized second base prospect Dilson Hererra. Remember that it was Hererra looming on the horizon that kept sports talk phones lit up when captain David Wright was lost for the season:

“Hello, this is Ira from Dix Hills. First time. Long time.”

“Welcome aboard, Ira,” the announcer answers.

“The Mets are nuts. Why don’t we move (Neil) Walker to third and bring up Hererra?”

“Bro,” the announcer’s reply sounds annoyed and fatigued, “I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Now back to Jets’ calls.”

Last season, specifically in July, the Mets were in the same position as they currently are. Either make the move to win it all or go home for the winter. Somehow they landed a top of the line slugger in Yoenis Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. In doing so they gave up very little. The most notable player lost was Michael Fulmer. For years, (since the “Generation K” fiasco), the Mets have tried to stock up on young pitching so that losing Fulmer (10-3, 2.25 ERA, 1 complete game, 10.17 WHIP, 103 Ks to 32 walks over 120 innings) really wasn’t a big deal.

The Jay Bruce trade will go down in Mets history one of two ways. He could become a great slugger and follow the path of Mike Piazza (both traded to the Mets at age 29). Or he could become Jason Bay – hmmm, same initials – never living up to the potential at the time of his acquisition. The problem is that Bruce is a corner outfielder like Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson and Brandon Nimmo and Cespedes. Add to that the Mets declaring Conforto, Nimmo and Brooklyn prospect, Desmond Lindsay (also a corner outfielder) as untouchables. With only three outfield spots, no designated hitter and none of them able to play first base, you can’t take the time in a win now circumstance to develop the youth or leave centerfield unmanned. Bruce said all of the right things by saying that he’d play wherever he’s needed, but face it, he’s a right fielder (like Granderson).

The Mets, this season at the plate and in their history, are a swing and a miss franchise. In 2002, they dove deep into the free agent market bringing in (over the hill and oft-injured) Mo Vaughn, (past his prime Hall of Famer) Roberto Alomar and (never living up to his potential) Jeromy Burnitz. Meanwhile, right under their nose was Marco Scutaro (who went on to success with the A’s and Giants). Then of course there was that great year of 1993. Ah, 1993 of Vince Coleman (more on that later) joining (over the hill Hall of Famer) Eddie Murray, (the not yet great) Jeff Kent, (lifetime payment plan) Bobby Bonilla, Bret Saberhagen and Anthony Young heading towards a 103 loss year.

Bringing back Cespedes for this season was paramount to their success. A contract set at three years with the chance to opt out after one season for less than $100 million was a bargain (relatively speaking). Still, getting back to the corner outfielder theme, Cespedes never cozied up to the spacious centerfield real estate of Citifield. The game plan of replacing Conforto in the late innings with Legares (moving Cespedes to leftfield) was sound – until Legares was lost for the season. When your best centerfielder is stuck riding the pine because of circumstances, then your roster has issues. That Cespedes played golf while nursing a quad injury was only the second worst golf-related Mets injury. In 1993, while practicing his golf swing in the clubhouse, Vince Coleman hit ace Dwight Gooden on the right shoulder putting him on the disabled list. Fore!

This season has been a series of missteps:

  • How is it that Mets’ manager, Terry Collins, was at the helm of the National League All-Star team and not one Amazin’ got into the game?
  • Mike Piazza becomes only the second player to enter the Hall of Fame in a Mets’ cap and have his number retired by the team. Yet, he gives the single least passionate acceptance speech ever. While he may have been honored by the Mets’ gesture, his speech certainly won’t go down with Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man on the face of the earth.” And while we’re at it, only three teammates showed up? Where was Bobby Valentine, Todd Zeile, Todd Pratt, John Olerud, Lenny Harris, Benny Agbayani, Joe McEwing, Jason Phillips, Art Howe or dozens of other players from his years in Queens?

For a season that started with so much promise, it feels like this team has committed more errors than the 1962 squad. Is the season over? No. Mets’ great and Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra, once famously (never) said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Injuries can’t be helped. No one expected Matt Harvey to be lost for the year. Long Island’s own Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard have pitched valiantly through arm pain. And Zack Wheeler will certainly not be a contributor to this team. Being swept, twice, by the worst teams in baseball will not help their chances.

Anything can happen and the Mets could very well wind up in the playoffs. They could be a wild card or even overtake the Nationals and Marlins for the Eastern Division. But more importantly, it’s time for this team to stop acting like the step child in this city. They’re not the junior varsity.

Kudos to Sandy Alderson for his optimism to bring in players at the trade deadline (yes, even you, Jon Niese). But when you look at this roster and see the holes, you wonder if the Mets are a Major League Baseball team or a piece of Swiss cheese.

Rookie lefthander, Steven Matz is donating to Angela’s House with every strikeout he throws. Purchases of this shirt will also result in donations to this vital charity. Click here:
http://www.mondomonsterwear.com/products/mets-aces

Jordan Silver (@ag_JordanSilver) has been a journalist and marketing/multimedia consultant for over twenty years. He has produced documentaries and television productions both nationally and internationally. Aside from his own blog which observes politics and modern culture, he has been published in the Miami Herald, ABCNews.com and various other publications. His company Ag Media Solutions, Inc. (www.agmediasolutions.com) represents several boutique firms and religious organizations as their outsourced marketing department. In addition, his apparel line, Mondo Monster Wear (www.mondomonsterwear.com), features designs that parody sports and pop culture.

He enjoys wine, cooking, golf, vintage movies and researching history and politics. In addition, he shares his love of the Mets, NY Giants, NY Rangers and music (The Beatles, RUSH and 80s Heavy Metal) with his two children. He lives on Long Island and can be found most summer weekend days on the beach or boat with his girlfriend and their blended families.

About Jordan Silver

Jordan Silver has been a journalist and marketing/multimedia consultant for over twenty years. He has produced documentaries and television productions both nationally and internationally. Aside from his own blog which observes politics and modern culture, he has been published in the Miami Herald, ABCNews.com and various other publications. His company Ag Media Solutions, Inc. (www.agmediasolutions.com) represents several boutique firms and religious organizations as their outsourced marketing department. In addition, his apparel line, Mondo Monster Wear (www.mondomonsterwear.com), features designs that parody sports and pop culture. He enjoys wine, cooking, golf, vintage movies and researching history and politics. In addition, he shares his love of the Mets, NY Giants, NY Rangers and music (The Beatles, RUSH and 80s Heavy Metal) with his two children. He lives on Long Island and can be found most summer weekend days on the beach or boat with his girlfriend and their blended families. Rookie lefthander, Steven Matz is donating to Angela’s House with every strikeout he throws. Purchases of this shirt will also result in donations to this vital charity. Click here: http://www.mondomonsterwear.com/products/mets-aces

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