By: Michael Ganci

Michael Baron: The Mets Have Three Max Scherzers

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Earlier this year, the Daily Stache debuted a series called #9innings, which you can access by clicking here. It’s a series of questions and answers in which we talk to some people with a little more access to the Mets to get a closer feel on the pulse of the team.

Today’s guest is Michael Baron, the innovator behind the site Just Mets. Here’s his look at what’s going on with the Amazins’.

Daily Stache: What do you make of the season the Mets have had thus far? Who’s surprised you?

Michael Baron: Their resiliency and character. This team has been through a ton since spring training. They’ve lost so many key players for extended periods of time. Hell, they lost one of those key players twice. But even in the deepest depth of their struggles they have found a way to keep their heads above water, win the games they needed to win (although they’ve lost some of those, too), persevere and be in an excellent position to be relevant down the stretch of the season.

My biggest surprise has been Wilmer Flores. Not so much for his performance, because he’s been up and down with the bat and his defense has obviously been subpar. But look at what this kid has been through? He was thrusted into a position he was doomed to fail in at shortstop. He listened to the whispers about his skill set as he was failing and costing the team games. Then, he was traded, cried his eyes out on the field, and has come through in heroic fashion for the team since then. It’s been a test of character and will for the young kid, and his perseverance has been beyond impressive.

Was the Carlos Gomez trade falling apart a blessing in disguise since it inevitably led to their getting Yoenis Cespedes?

No question.

First off, Cespedes is a better player, and fills their need and desire for power which Gomez simply could not to this degree. But they were also able to retain Zack Wheeler and Flores in the process while only giving up a 2nd tier arm who very likely had no place in this rotation in 2016 or 2017 anyway.

Of course, the risk involved is they will lose Cespedes for nothing, and if they don’t get to the playoffs, then it will sting even more. But it was a good bet, and unquestionably the better risk to take..

What about the minor moves the Mets have made? What do you think of the Uribe, Johnson, Clippard and now O’Flaherty acquisitions?

Talent wise, you’re getting two excellent secondary pieces in Uribe and Johnson. Uribe is a tremendous third baseman even at age 36. He’s also a capable bat, and he’s paid immediate dividends with some huge hits for the club in his first five games.

Johnson is like a poor man’s Ben Zobrist, although he is an excellent utility guy capable of playing multiple positions on an everyday basis. He’s got good power, plays competently at second base in particular, and goes a long way towards improving the club’s depth.

As for the bullpen pieces, Clippard’s track record speaks for itself. His change-up makes him a deadly weapon against left-handed hitters. He is a bulldog and will be a great piece to get big outs down the stretch of the season.

O’Flaherty is the lefty specialist the Mets badly need in the absence of Jerry Blevins, and something they have suffered by not having for the last four months. He shouldn’t face right-handed hitters ever, but if he’s used properly, the Mets will be glad to have him for the rest of the year.

But what you’re getting with Uribe and Johnson in particular are TREMENDOUS clubhouse guys. Anyone I’ve talked to about both players have said their value is in their natural leadership skills. In watching Uribe in particular over the years, he seems like he’s friends with everybody in baseball. He keeps it loose, he knows how to keep the clubhouse positive, and Im willing to bet the Mets are going to need that as times get tougher down the stretch.

Who’s built better for the stretch run, the Mets or Nationals? What do you think of Jayson Werth’s comments about the division to be theirs for the taking?

Well, Werth is technically incorrect – it’s the Mets division to lose, since they are the ones in first place, albeit by a mere game and a half.

Being involved with the Mets for so long and through so many trying years, I’m hard pressed to knock confidence and swagger. The Mets have longed for that kind of swagger, and they may very well have found it this season. I respect the Nationals. They have been to the playoffs just a few more times than the Mets have in recent seasons despite their October failures, and they have owned the Mets in particular aside from this past weekend in the last four years.

But the Mets can change that discussion and prove Werth wrong by going out and winning the division, something this roster is more than capable of doing.

The Mets pitching is top-to-bottom better than the Nationals right now. Sure, the Nationals have Scherzer and if Stephen Strasburg can get back and stay back, they couple with Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez as a formidable four.

The thing is, the Mets have three Max Scherzers, who is better than the other three behind him as we know. That along with a real stable bullpen with an ability to shorten the game makes the Mets pitching better in my view.

There’s also the issue with the massive underachievement from Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ian Desmond this season which has watered them down and really prevented them from running off with the NL East this season. They have kept the Mets around, especially while the Mets were meandering during June and early July. That’s on them, and they are going to have to work to push beyond these retro-fitted Mets and win the division.

Do you expect anything out of David Wright? He’s set to embark on a rehab assignment, but can he provide even more help in the lineup?

Perhaps the biggest thing Wright can provide the Mets is being there, in that dugout and on that field. Whatever he produces will be gravy. He is important from a spiritual perspective in that clubhouse. People flock to him, they seek him out for advice, and he commands a presence which has really been absent in the clubhouse this season.

Now if he comes back and produces as he expects to, that would be phenomenal for the team. But it’s hard to predict what he’s even capable of doing, let alone what he’s going to do.

Has Jenrry Mejia thrown his last pitch as a Met? What does his future hold?

I believe so. He’s out until next August, and he’s arbitration eligible again this winter. Sure, they wouldnt be responsible for paying him while he’s on the restricted list, but he can’t make less than 80% of his 2014 salary no matter what, and when was the last time a player took a pay cut in arbitration?

In listening to Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson, it seems as though this was the last straw. But, things change, time heals all wounds, so we will see.

Who’s the Mets’ team MVP to this point of the season? Who’s their LVP?

Until recently, Jeurys Familia was the team MVP. Period. I still think he is despite all of a sudden losing command of his sinker, but here’s a guy who had no idea he would become the team’s closer, even on Opening Day. Now, he’s got 28 saves or whatever, and has been the club’s anchor in the revolving door called the Mets bullpen all year long.

I think you can also talk about Curtis Granderson being in the discussion, as he’s been forced to evolve his game and be the team’s leadoff hitter when he’s really best suited to be a middle of the lineup presence.

As for the least valuable player, Michael Cuddyer has really disappointed this season, although he did perk up before going on the disabled list. But he has value in the clubhouse too, and he is a super guy and a professional, which is important for a young team.

What do you think of the job Terry Collins has done? What about Dan Warthen and Kevin Long?

Put it this way: If the season ends today, Terry Collins should win the NL Manager of the Year. He’s had to deal with a broken roster, an unbalanced roster, insufficient resources most of the way, nonsense in his rotation and his bullpen, yet he’s managed to keep the glue solid and hold it together just long enough for his GM to get the reinforcements he needs. That’s a testament to Collins, Bob Geren and the entire coaching staff for filtering the noise, keeping their team focused and maintaining their message which has been consistent all year.

Dan Warthen gets a lot of flack for some reason, but this is a brilliant pitching coach who has molded the core of the Mets future (the starting rotation) so well. He has made the growing pains and adjustments for these young starters manageable, and they have successfully navigated through the difficult trials of not only being a major leaguer, but staying a major leaguer, and thats all a part of the pitching coach’s job, on top of preparing them to pitch every five days. They love working with him, he loves working with them, and he has forged some key relationships which has helped make these young studs very, very successful very early in their careers.

Think of it this way. The Mets have been very fortunate all of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and now Steven Matz have come up aces from the farm system. That didn’t just happen because of Sandy Alderson and the player development staff.

As for Kevin Long, he has a very different message than prior hitting coaches have tried to deliver. Obviously, the results haven’t been there for the team throughout the year, but that was largely due to the fact the team lacked the necessary talent to field a competitive lineup. I think as long as he connects with the hitters, he has done his job. That connection may eventually lead to success.

Lastly, finish this sentence. By the end of the regular season, the Mets will be…

going to San Francisco for Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

About Michael Ganci

Michael Ganci is the Co-Founder of the Daily Stache, along with Matthew Falkenbury. Since 2008, Ganci has eat, drank and dreamt all things Mets, and he'd have it no other way. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @DailyStache.

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