The Mets are bad. The Phillies are worse. Ben Lively is mediocre (bordering on bad). Matt Harvey is worse. Both teams are better served by losing. It’s late season baseball at the bottom of the standings, folks, so get excited.
In what is probably (hopefully) his last series in a Mets uniform, Jose Reyes got things off to a fast start in the ballpark he’s so often enjoyed hitting in. With one out in the first, Reyes deposited his 15th homer of the year into the right-center field seats to give Matt Harvey a 1-0 lead before he even took the mound. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a single on a pop up, but the Mets would only get the one run.
Harvey held that lead for an inning, but no longer. Odubel Herrera dropped down a beautiful bunt for a single with one out in second, and Maikel Franco immediately followed that with a moonshot of a home run on fastball that Harvey through right over the middle of the plate at 94 mph. Perhaps if he had the 98 mph life he used to, Matt could blow hitters away with that pitch. Instead, those strikeouts have turned into hard-hit balls.
Things continued to spiral in the third, as Harvey gave up a walk and two singles to load the bases with nobody out. Two batters later, a run scored on a sacrifice fly from Odubel Herrera. Then, with Maikel Franco at the plate, Harvey’s season reached its nadir. As he started his delivery, Harvey’s hand seemed to hit his knee, leading him to drop the ball for a balk and prompting Gary Cohen to give us a lesson about the 1962 Mets – certainly never the season that any team or any player wants to be compared to. The balk scored a second run for the Phillies to make it 4-1.
Dom Smith and Jose Reyes conspired to make Harvey’s life a bit more difficult in the fourth, letting a pop up off the bat of Jorge Alfaro drop for a leadoff double. Juan Lagares bailed the Mets out, gunning down Alfaro at the plate with one of his trademark, pinpoint throws to home plate, keeping the deficit at three. Harvey navigated the rest of the inning and departed having allowed just the four runs.
Smith did his best to atone for his mistake in the fifth, leading off with his ninth home run of the year. Hansel Robles eventually gave that run back. After tossing a clean bottom of the fifth, Robles left a fastball over the plate and down to Alfaro, who blasted it out to left-center to re-extend the Phillie lead to 5-2. Two batters later, Cesar Hernandez also went deep with a solo shot, making it 6-2. Yes, Hansel pointed to the sky on both homers. Things got a little touchy with Freddy Galvis at the plate as the Phillies got over-sensitive about an inside fastball (Robles does have some history with them, of course), but ultimately nothing crazy happened and the game went to the seventh with the Mets in a four-run hole.
The Mets wasted a walk from Smith in the seventh and singles from Nori Aoki and Cabrera in the eighth. Meanwhile, Kevin McGowan tossed a clean seventh and Jacob Rhame tossed a clean eighth (aside – he has a fun fastball, even though his results have been poor). That brought on Cabrera’s favorite person, Edubray Ramos for the save. Lagares and Phil Evans made some two out noise, each singling on ground balls to the left side. Ramos rallied to retire Aoki on a ground ball to first to end the 6-2 loss.
The loss drops the Mets to 69-91, holding them in line for the sixth pick in the draft. It’d be pretty nice if the Mets could manage to lose all three games of this series and sneak into the top five, but the Reds have a two-game “lead.” Seth Lugo takes the mound in game 161 today with Jacob deGrom scratched.
Thoughts from the Game
Keith was in rare form last night, as he and Gary started the last series of the year. His rants ranged from the overemphasis of home runs (no Keith, no one thinks Maikel Franco is having a good year) to multiple remarks on the music being played in Citizens Bank Park. Though his “back in my day” nonsense is at times annoying, it is almost always amusing, and he’ll be a big part of why we’ll miss the Mets for the next six months even after such a disastrous season.
For Harvey, this was probably an okay outing at this point of the season. He’ll end 2017, which he called a “nightmare,” with a 6.70 ERA, a meager 6.51 K/9, a bad 4.56 BB/9, and a stupendously awful 2.04 HR/9. Why he pitched for so long when he seemed physically unable is an open question. The Mets plan to tender him, and someone with a relatively recent history of elite performance is worth a $5 million gamble. We’ll just have to hope that Harvey’s issue were just an issue of a lack of strength and that he can rebound, though I don’t think anyone is holding their breath at this point.
Finally, I have to take a final jab at all the Dom Smith enthusiasts out there. Sure, Smith’s power has been better at the major league level (on a 30 HR/600 PA pace) as you’d expect with the juiced ball effect we’ve seen this year. Despite that, Dom has been awful, as his walk and strikeout rates unsurprisingly slipped, and his overall output plummeted to a putrid .226. There is no reason he should be gifted a spot in the starting lineup next season if the Mets are serious about contention.
Other Met News
Starting with the less inflammatory story (though there’s lots of inflammation here too most likely), Jacob deGrom has been scratched from his Saturday start with gastroenteritis. It’s nothing serious, and Seth Lugo will slot on Saturday in his place. deGrom finishes a very solid 2017 with a 3.55 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 201.1 innings.
Marc Carig’s bombshell article is the real big story around the Mets at the moment. Unsurprisingly, Sandy Alderson and other members of the front office have wanted to fire Terry Collins for some time due to a litany of problems with his managing tactics and style (more on that later). However, it was the elder Fred Wilpon shielding Collins from Alderson’s wrath, not the younger Jeff who is so often ridiculed by Met fans (with good reason).
There’s a lot to dissect here. On some level, it’s encouraging that Collins’ ineptitude was recognized as a problem by the supposedly analytically inclined Met front office. Team officials cited his frequent overuse of relievers and reluctance to play young players as particular issues, and any informed Met fan has been complaining about those tendencies for years. That gives you some hope that the next manager the Mets pick will be more receptive to analytic advice and, in general, not a tactical moron.
As cathartic as it is for us fans it’s very concerning that this sort of airing of dirty laundry happened at all. It’s clear that Fred Wilpon still fancies himself some sort of baseball man, overriding the people he hired to run his team so that he could keep reminiscing about the Dodgers with his old buddy Collins. Is the relationship so bad that Sandy (or whoever else) has to poison the well enough to force Fred Wilpon’s hand? That’s a scary thought on multiple levels. How do you sell a new manager on such a dysfunctional work environment? And what’s to stop Fred from overriding his front office again during the hiring process, perhaps bringing in someone he likes (Robin Ventura) rather than the most qualified candidate?
Regardless of the unclear implications for the functionality of the Met front office and their managerial search, Fred Wilpon’s meddling has certainly done long term damage to the Mets roster. In an age when pitcher rest has been recognized as more and more important, Terry Collins has run multiple pitchers in the bullpen and in the rotation in the ground, and likely deserves at least some of the blame for the rash of injuries the Mets have suffered. Further, his poor communication skills created a clubhouse culture where everyone was “miserable,” which could very well have ramifications for the Mets’ efforts to retain some of their home grown stars down the line. Why stick around in an environment where the managerial structure above you is clearly a disaster that trickles down into your day-to-day workplace?
Ultimately, this is the kind of story that, as Keith put it, has the smell of a loser. Terry Collins may deserve to be trashed for how awful he is at his job and we may take some small, perverse pleasure in watching the focus of our ire for so many years get lit up. But a well run organization doesn’t have this happen, as they either have the wherewithal to remove the source of internal strife before things reach this point or simply eat it and move on. This isn’t a well run organization though, it’s the Mets, and until that changes, they will remain a loser.
Photo credit: John Geliebter – USA Today Sports