In the past 9 games, the New York Mets are 1-8.
It’s not that it’s surprising that the Mets have taken a downward turn this season, it’s how early they’ve begun the nose dive that is worrisome. I mean, who could forget that the day before Cespedes got to the Mets, John Mayberrry, Jr was batting fourth with a .167 average? Or that the Mets ranked last in runs scored and batting average, but still made a successful run at a wildcard spot? No one can, but I think we would all like to forget the past week and a half of games.
Let’s keep this short and sweet, alright? The Mets are having some issues with their lineup on a daily basis. First off, we’ve got some injuries. Lucas Duda left a game this week with an injury? What injury? Well, a hyperextended left elbow that he got while running to first base. BOOM. 10-Day DL. Fine, that’s fine, just move Wilmer to first and let him hit off some right-handed pitching. WAIT. HOLD UP. Wilmer Flores is out with a JOINT INFECTION? ARE YOU SERIOUS? Fine. Jay Bruce can play first base.
Here’s an amazing thing about these two injuries; they forced Terry Collins to put an outfielder at first base.
FLUSHING FAITHFUL REJOICE! WE HAVE AN ANSWER TO THE CROWDED OUTFIELD! ALL WE HAD TO DO WAS WAIT FOR SOME INJURIES! And since we’ve found those answers, let me give you a few more.
#1 – Michael Conforto plays every day and leads off.
Last week I wrote a piece that I decided to sit on, due to that fact that the season was in the early stages. I did however write this little gem:
“José Reyes is now 2-for-33, which puts him at the bottom of the National League’s hitter. After keeping him in the leadoff spot for a full week, Terry finally decides to drop him down in the lineup. A FULL WEEK. José Reyes, the leadoff man for the Mets, the top of the order for a team that had a problem getting on base all last season, has only been on base 3 times this entire season. THREE. TIMES. INSTEAD, REYES SEES PLAYING TIME WHILE MICHAEL CONFORTO WHO WENT 2-FOR-4 WITH 2 RUNS SCORED, AND A SOLO SHOT WILL NO DOUBT SIT TOMORROW. TERRY. CAN WE NOT WITH THIS?”
José Reyes is now 7-for-74, or .104, for the season. When Reyes came up to bat in the late innings of Sunday’s bout with the Nationals, my father, a lifelong Red Sox fan, laughed out loud at Reyes statistics. He’s not wrong, at all.
Reyes can’t do much of anything at the plate, and Terry Collins isn’t helping him out. Sure, dropping José from the leadoff spot to 7th would definitely take some pressure off him, but I would argue it actually does the opposite. Instead of taking the pressure off of José, Collins has put him in a spot in front of the pitcher, thus given the opposing pitcher an easy two outs. What’s more dangerous; José followed by Cabrera and Cespedes or José followed by Gsellman and Rivera or Lagares? They’re gonna blow by him, Terry, it’s not working. So, I would like to offer a suggestion.
José Reyes in the 9th hole, followed by Conforto leading off. This makes things a little interesting. If José can break out of his slump, he does it with Conforto on deck and your hottest hitters to follow, plus he does it in a safe, not pressure spot batting behind the pitcher. Even if that pitcher never gets on base, José Reyes has hit .299 with one out in his career, better than any other situation. Plus, this puts your speed in a semi-leadoff spot without any pressure or stakes attached.
Now, let’s talk Conforto. Terry, you gotta let the kid play. You gotta do it, Terry. Michael Conforto is hotter than hell these past few weeks and it’s not like he’s just turned it on. It’s been there, he’s just the odd man in the outfield. However, even though he has HALF AS MANY PLATE APPEARANCES, Conforto is still one of the top offensive producers on the team, hitting .361, with an OPS of 1.154. While I’m not ready to board the “Maddon School of Schwarber-esque Leadoff Batters” just yet, I think you’ve got to ride this out until it stops working. The fact of the matter is that, Conforto not only stepped up to the plate and hit, but also voluntarily played Center. This kid wants to play and every time he suits up, he shows it. That’s a guy I want on my team. That’s a goddamn New York Met.
So when Max Scherzer comes to town and your team has lost 7 of their last 8 games, you gotta fight back. Conforto did just just that, homering in the first and ending his night with 3 hits, half of the Mets total for the night. This is a guy who shouldn’t be trying to play his way onto the team, but here he is slugging his face off in the time that’s been given to him. So why does his stint seem to be temporary? There was a time when Michael Conforto was the future of this ballclub, so why does it seem like we’re trying to delay that future from starting? Because our outfield is clogged. We’ve got Yoenis “La Potencia” Cespedes in Left, Curtis “Great Smile, No Arm” Granderson in Center, and Jay “PLEASE ALLOW ME TO RE-INTRODUCE MYSELF” Bruce in Right. All of those guys have earned spots in that lineup, and moving them to the bench is hard to stomach, even if it means making room for Conforto. Which leads me to my next point…
#2 – Leave Jay Bruce at First
Jay Bruce has done something Lucas Duda hasn’t done in quite some time. Jay Bruce played first base and consistently produced at the plate. Look, I know that’s a rough thing to say, but at this point, I don’t know what we’re waiting for with Duda. I like the guy, I really like the guy, but how much longer will we have to watch Duda strike out on an offspeed pitch while sitting on a fastball that will never come. The book has been written on Duda for a very long time. Secondary pitches, no fastballs, low and inside. Rinse and repeat. We saw that downturn begin after the 2014 season, and now he’s battling all kinds of injuries. I just don’t know how much longer I can wait on his potential to come to fruition, maybe this is it?
Alright, maybe it’s not, but as of right now, I’m willing to trade Duda’s lack of production for Conforto’s current production. What? You thought we were talking about Jay Bruce? WE ARE! By keeping Jay Bruce at first, you can move Granderson back to Right field and leave Conforto in Center. Conforto and Lagares can platoon Center, and Conforto can shift to Left when Cespedes needs a day off. Who would have thought the outfield issues would have been solved by Lucas Duda? Not me!
This is not me saying I’m keeping Granderson in Right Field to bench Duda. Granderson has his place on the team as a guy who can run and hit with power. In fact, Granderson’s numbers almost exactly the same as Duda’s year-to-year. Here’s the deal: you gotta play the guys who are going to hit. It’s plain and simple. On a team that has historically had trouble producing at the plate these past few years, you can’t throw your hands up and say “well, they’re doing their best!” No, this isn’t Triple-A. You’re getting paid to play at a high level, step up and do it. In 2015, Terry collins said the same thing:
“If you want to stay in the lineup, you’ve got to start hitting,” Collins said. “We’ve played great. Our pitching has been good. We’ve caught the baseball. We’ve got to start scoring some runs. We’re getting beat because we’re not scoring. Our pitching is good enough to keep us in any game. … I’ll tell you what: Whoever is swinging the bat is going to play. It’s about scoring some runs right now.”
What team does that sound like? The 2015 Mets? The 2016 Mets? The 2017 Mets? I mean, it’s from 2015 right after the Mets acquired Kelly Johnson and Juan “Coke Can” Uribe, but it’s been a consistent problem for the Mets for years. You can’t keep crossing your fingers hoping that guys will rise to the occasion. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. You can lead a Met to the plate, but they’re gonna watch the first pitch for a strike and then ground into the shift.
The Mets have all of the pieces to be a successful team that can compete. The Marlins, The Phillies, The Braves are all teams with young guys taking the reigns and looking to the future, so why are the Mets still acting like the Mets of the past? They have to break out of this funk, and they face two very good teams in Atlanta and Washington this week. Hopefully, they can avoid being swept by the Nationals this weekend, but isn’t that what being a Mets fan is all about? Be hopeful. That’s all we can do.