After a 2 1/2 week post-World-Series detox, I’m back to report on the offseason. As always, don’t forget to follow me on Flipboard, where I always share up to the minute notes and stories from various publications.
Matt Harvey and Yoenis Cespedes were the only Mets to come away with a major award this season, with Cespedes winning the American League Gold Glove award as a left fielder and Harvey winning the NL Comeback Player of the Year award. Curtis Granderson was nominated in right field in the NL, but lost out to Jason Heyward.
For Rookie of the Year, Noah Syndergaard finished 4th in the voting behind Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy, and Jung Ho Kang. Terry Collins finished 3rd in Manager of the Year voting behind Joe Maddon and Mike Matheny. Jacob deGrom finished 7th in Cy Young voting, behind Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, and Madison Bumgarner. Yoenis Cespedes finished 13th in the NL MVP vote, while Curtis Granderson finished 18th (Courtesy of a single 7th place vote by Mike Puma of the NY Post).
The following players elected free agency:
The following notable minor leaguers elected free agency:
The Mets added infielder Ty Kelly on a minor league contract with a spring training invite, while they lost lefty reliever Jack Leathersich (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery) on waivers to the Chicago Cubs. Josh Smoker, left handed reliever from AA, was added to the 40 man roster. The 40 man roster currently sits at 35, not including Kelly (on a minor league contract) and Jenrry Mejia (restricted).
7 Mets minor leaguers are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this December, and if left off the 40 man roster, can be selected by any major league team. Of the 7, 4 seem likey to be protected on the 40-man roster: outfielder Brandon Nimmo, outfielder Wulimer Becerra, right-handed pitcher Robert Gsellman, and right-handed pitcher Matt Bowman. Shortstop T.J. Rivera, right-handed pitcher Seth Lugo, and first baseman Jayce Boyd are also eligible.
A few hours after publishing this article, the Mets added 4 minor leaguers to the 40 man roster: Nimmo, Gsellman, Lugo, and right handed pitcher Jeff Walters. Beccera, who arrived alongside Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard in the R.A. Dickey trade, is in particular danger of being selected in the Rule 5 draft.
The 2015 regular season is winding down, and 6 teams have clinched postseason spots. The Mets and Royals are the only two teams who have clinched a division title, while the Cardinals, Pirates, and Blue Jays have clinched postseason spots. The Cubs have clinched a wild card spot. Competing for the final four spots (in order of likelihood) are the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, Angels, Twins, Giants, and Indians.
With the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Giants in extra innings last night, the Mets currently hold a 2 game lead for home field advantage. The Mets hold the tiebreaker, having won the season series 4-3. Therefore, the Mets’ magic number to clinch home field advantage is now 4, with 6 games to play.
The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch their division is 2, but they are playing 3 more head-to-head games against the Giants. A win by the Dodgers in any of those games would clinch the division. The Yankees’ magic number to clinch a postseason spot is 3. St. Louis has a magic number of 2 to clinch the Central, but has two more head-to-head games against the 2nd place Pirates. The Rangers’ magic number to clinch the AL West is 5.
For anyone living under a rock, the Washington Nationals once again made headlines, and not in a good way. After his failure to run out a flyout to left, Bryce Harper was confronted in the dugout by Jonathan Papelbon, and Papelbon proceeded to lunge at Harper and put him in a choke hold against the dugout wall. To make things even more bizarre, while Harper left the game, manager Matt Williams left Papelbon in to pitch the 9th inning (in a 4-4 tie) and proceed to blow the game. Williams later said he didn’t realize the severity of Papelbon’s actions, since he was on the other side of the dugout, leading Ken Rosenthal to quip, “you would think the dugout was the size of an airline terminal.” [link] Papelbon was suspended for 4 games by the team, and accepted his 3 game suspension from Major League Baseball for hitting Manny Machado last week. Therefore, Papelbon is out for the rest of the season, suspended without pay [SB Nation].
To make the story even more interesting, Fox Sports writer and former MLB reliever C.J. Nitkowski wrote that players overwhelmingly support Papelbon in the dust-up with Harper. [link] The idea is that after Harper called out Papelbon last week for throwing at Machado, there was a storm brewing (i.e., this was not about failure to run out a popup). Harper is often perceived as someone who is “above the game,” someone who is “allowed to loaf,” and someone who “hasn’t earned” the right to jog on a pop-up (all quotes from Nitkowski’s anonymous player sources). According to Nitkowski, “Papelbon is everybody’s favorite punching bag but it’s not deserved here.” After a firestorm of responses, Nitkowski addressed some of those responses in a follow-up article. [link]
On the other hand, the pervading narrative of MLB Network was that Papelbon was not the right person to address a lack of hustle with Harper; after all, Papelbon is not an everyday player. (Mike Lowell, if I recall correctly, was the one who called bull; a young player would have listened to Mariano Rivera, of course). At SB Nation, Grant Brisbee notes that earlier in the game, Clint Robinson did much the same thing as Harper, but without issue. [link]
While these takes are interesting ones, mostly from former players, it just solidifies how the analysts are missing the point. Let me dumb it down:
PAPELBON PUT HARPER IN A CHOKEHOLD, AND THAT IS NOT OKAY.
This has nothing to do with failure to run out a popup, this has nothing to do with Harper calling Papelbon out in the media. This has nothing to do with Harper’s perceived arrogance, immaturity, or whatever. There is no ambiguity here. Analysts are over-analyzing. Papelbon choked Harper. He shouldn’t have. There should be no ambiguity. Keep your ridiculous unwritten rules, but the choke hold is simply not okay. End of story.
Other links about Papelbon and Harper:
- Deadspin took Fox Sports to task on Nitkowski’s article and another article by Rob Neyer.
- Ken Rosenthal: What you need to know about Bryce Harper’s baserunning
- Beyond the Boxscore: Papelbon/Harper symptom of larger problem
- NY Times: When teammates fight: An ugly history
- Fangraphs: Mets are a scary playoff team
- Beyond the Boxscore: MLBAM strikeks out in marketing baseball
- ESPN: Jon Niese headed to bullpen
- Fangraphs: Putting the Nationals disappointment in context
- JABO: Will Brazil be Baseball’s next frontier?
- Fangraphs: The Royals are basically the best contact team ever
- Amazin’ Avenue: #THIS: Mets celebrate clinching the NL East
The Mets and Nationals both lost yesterday, therefore the Mets retained a 6.5 game lead in the division and had their magic number reduced to 6. Here are some links and notes from around MLB:
Yogi Berra passed away yesterday at age 90. The New York Times has a fantastic article on him.
It’s Fans Scouting Report time! Take some time to evaluate the fielding of Mets players on this season (or any other team you follow regularly). Read Tom Tango’s blurb first, then evaluate as much as you believe you can.
Offense has returned, per Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs. Explaining it, though, is a tough task.
- B/R: Travis d’Arnaud, already one of MLB’s elite catchers
- Rotographs: Yoenis Cespedes upends the Status Quo
- Statliners: Michael Conforto just another successful rookie
- ESPN: Who deserves the NL Cy Young award?
- FiveThirtyEight: Trout or Donaldson for MVP?
- ESPN: Reliever Wade Davis takes over the closer’s role from Greg Holland in Kansas City
- ESPN: Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon sent home due to effort level
- Blogs on rebuilding the Milwaukee Brewers:
After last night’s difficult loss against the Yankees, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs looks at the hindsight of removing Matt Harvey after 5 innings. Sure it’s easy to criticize it now (as many New York tabloids did), but Hansel Robles has, on the season, been just as good or better than Matt Harvey has been the third time through the batting order. If the Mets intend to conserve Harvey’s innings, these are the best to conserve: the ones likely to be most laborious.
Rob Neyer at Just A Bit Outside has a take on why the Mets were put in the Matt Harvey situation now, as opposed to months ago. Neyer argues that it was never particularly likely that the Mets would contend for the division, and it is only human nature to put off a decision you may never have to make. Harvey could have had a minor injury to take away a few starts, the Mets could have finished way out of the race, etc. Neyer also argues the reaction was no better when the Nationals took another approach and announced early on that they would shut down Stephen Strasburg. Therefore, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Craig Calcaterra wants us to quit freaking out about Matt Harvey. Calcaterra argues that due to the Mets lead in the division, they’re still in great shape, and that we would have gladly taken such a high playoff percentage before the season started. He also argues that they didn’t lose yesterday’s game because Matt Harvey left the game early, rather, they lost due to bad offense, bad defense, and a bad bullpen (I completely agree).
Anthony DiComo has a friendly reminder for Mets fans regarding postseason odds… [link]
Elsewhere around MLB:
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, former All-Star pitcher Josh Johnson will undergo his 3rd Tommy John surgery. In today’s display of statistical cherrypicking, few were better than Johnson between 2008 and 2011, between his first Tommy John surgery and his issues with shoulder inflammation. In that time span (minimum 500 IP), Johnson had an ERA of 2.81, 3rd best in baseball behind Adam Wainwright and Roy Halladay. He was traded to the Blue Jays in the blockbuster trade that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck to Toronto in exchange for Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, and a host of others. He struggled mightily in Toronto in 2013 to a 6.20 ERA over 81 1/3 IP, though ERA estimators xFIP and SIERA had him at 3.58 and 3.66, respectively. He signed with San Diego in 2014 and 2015 on a couple of low-risk deals, but has yet to throw a pitch for them. The 3rd Tommy John surgery means Johnson will likely sit out for the 2016 season, his third straight full season without appearing in the major leagues.
Elsewhere around MLB, the Nationals beat the Phillies by a score of 4-0 last night behind Stephen Strasburg. Combined with the Mets’ loss, that reduces the Mets’ lead to 8.5 games and leaves their magic number at 10. For a brief period yesterday, the Mets had the largest division lead in baseball, 9.5 games to Kansas City’s 9, but with a KC win and a Minnesota loss, (combined with the Nats’ win and Mets loss), KC has regained that title.
There’s a lot of talk around MLB about how much Yoenis Cespedes has fueled the Mets’ turnaround. Jayson Stark wrote an article I linked to yesterday saying how historic and instrumental he has been [link] However, Rob Neyer of Just A Bit Outside says giving Cespedes credit alone is a disservice to the rest of the team that has picked it up around him, mainly Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson, Wilmer Flores, and David Wright. It’s an interesting and important read, lest we ignore how absolutely fantastic Travis d’Arnaud has been since his return [Just A Bit Outside]
In other Mets news, the team confirmed that they will pitch Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey against the Yankees this weekend. The series will be very important to the Yankees, who are chasing the Blue Jays for the division title. The Yankees currently sit 3.5 games back of Toronto. For the Mets, the series will be less important, but by pitching Matz, Syndergaard, and Harvey, the Mets are certainly doing the Yankees no favors.
NBC Sports’ recap of yesterday’s scores, including the Texas Rangers taking sole possession of 1st place from the Houston Astros. Who allowed the leadoff single to Prince Fielder in the bottom of the 9th? Our old friend Oliver Perez of course!
- ESPN: Jerry Crasnick rates the non-waiver deadline deals so far, and no surprise, the Mets come in first.
- Grantland: Want a story about Bartolo Colon’s hitting ability and a chance to relive all of his 8 hits this season? This is the story for you!
- SB Nation: The Cleveland Indians’ fireworks operator was a little over-anxious when Kansas City’s Alex Rios hit a solo home run. The Indians lost the game 2-0.
- SB Nation: Giants’ star pinch hitter and all-around superhuman Madison Bumgarner managed to draw a walk against fellow superhuman Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds while the Giants were down 8-5 in the 8th inning. It was the first walk all season Chapman has given up after being up 0-2 on a batter. The Giants managed to tie the game, but lost 9-8 in 10.
- NBC Sports/Hardball Talk: Barry Zito is back in the majors!
- Fangraphs: Other incredible runs this season like that of Yoenis Cespedes
- Fangraphs: Jeff Sullivan on why the American League remains the superior of the two leagues
- Just A Bit Outside: Why haven’t stolen bases returned?
- ESPN: I always thought Miami’s Christian Yelich looked familiar, and after he met with SNL’s Pete Davidson before last night’s game, I certainly see the resemblance.
- Deadspin: Hey look, Jon Lester actually picked someone off!
- JABO: Baseball needs to adjust after 58 players and 24 pitchers (both records) were used in last night’s 16-inning Rockies-Dodgers game
The Mets have a 9.5 game lead with 19 games to play, good for a magic number of 10. The Nationals won late last night, even after loud mouthed schnook Jonathan Papelbon not only complained about his time in Philadelphia, but proceeded to blow his first save of the season in the 10th inning by allowing a solo home run to Freddy Galvis. Oddly enough, it came on the one year anniversary of perhaps his most infamous blown save last season.
Elsewhere around MLB:
- NY Times: Mets thought hard before acquiring Yoenis Cespedes
- Vice: Curtis Granderson is your favorite Met
- ESPN: The Mets turnaround is historic, and so is Yoenis Cespedes
- JABO: Many MLB veterans are about to get their first taste of the Postseason
- JABO: How the Kansas City Royals outdid their PECOTA projections
- JABO: Mets outfield turnaround
- Metsblog: Paul DePodesta open to being GM for another team
- JABO: The Strike Zone is a Volume?
The Mets completed a 4 game sweep against the Atlanta Braves this weekend, winning the final game in dramatic fashion. The Washington Nationals lost 2 of 3 to the Miami Marlins, growing the Mets’ division lead to 9.5 games and lowering their magic number to 11.
It was announced this weekend that Matt Harvey will make partial starts in the 6-man rotation for the rest of the season. He will start Sunday night against the Yankees. Logan Verrett starts tonight as they skip Harvey’s rotation spot.
Today, Curtis Granderson was named as the Mets’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, MLB’s top off-field honor. Yoenis Cespedes was also named NL Player of the Week, the second straight week a Met has won the award.
Here are some weekend/Monday links from around MLB:
- ESPN: The Yankees lost 3 out of 4 to the Blue Jays this weekend, putting them 3.5 games back in the division. The Blue Jays may have suffered the biggest loss though, as shortstop Troy Tulowitzki went down with a small left shoulder fracture after colliding with center fielder Kevin Pillar. The Jays are hopeful to have him back in 2-3 weeks. In the meantime, the Blue Jays have acquired 2012 Gold Glove 2nd baseman Darwin Barney from the Los Angeles Dodgers (since he was acquired after August 31st, Barney will not be eligible for the postseason).
- Fansided: The Blue Jays are not alone in the injury department, as Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeira is out for the season with a leg fracture.
- Deadspin: David Ortiz hit his 499th and 500th career home runs in the same game on Saturday night, becoming only the 27th player to reach the 500 home run plateau.
- Just Mets: Bobby Parnell was an underrated hero in Sunday’s win against the Braves
- NBC Sports/Hardball Talk: The Mets’ decision on whether to sign Yoenis Cespedes following the season will be an interesting saga… especially because most people think Cespedes’s recent performance is a fluke. Will the Mets be willing to overpay for him?
- SB Nation: Is this the start of a thrilling Houston Astros/Texas Rangers rivalry?
- ESPN: Nationals’ Drew Storen done for season after breaking thumb on pitching hand. Storen broke his thumb when slamming his locker after giving up a go-ahead home run to Yoenis Cespedes last Wednesday night.
- ESPN: What’s wrong with Royals’ starter Johnny Cueto?