Tag Archives: baseball

2016 MLB Predictions

Admittedly, this article is coming out a day late, so these predictions are obviously all moot and completely worthless, as the three total games that have been played so far have determined everything that will happen in the regular season for the next six months.

Anyways, here are the Sushi on Sports 2016 MLB predictions.

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays

Boston Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles

Tampa Bay Rays

New York Yankees

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

Chicago White Sox

Detroit Tigers

Cleveland Indians

Minnesota Twins

AL West

Houston Astros

Texas Rangers

Seattle Mariners

Oakland Athletics

Los Angeles Angels

NL East

New York Mets

Washington Nationals

Miami Marlins

Atlanta Braves

Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates

Cincinnati Reds

Milwaukee Brewers

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Francisco Giants

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

San Diego Padres

AL Wild Card

Chicago White Sox over Texas Rangers

NL Wild Card

Pittsburgh Pirates over St. Louis Cardinals

ALDS

Houston Astros over Chicago White Sox

Toronto Blue Jays over Kansas City Royals

NLDS

Chicago Cubs over Pittsburgh Pirates

New York Mets over Los Angeles Dodgers

ALCS

Houston Astros over Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS

New York Mets over Chicago Cubs

World Series

New York Mets over Houston Astros

AL MVP

Carlos Correa

NL MVP

Anthony Rizzo

AL Cy Young

Chris Sale

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw

AL ROY

A.J. Reed

NL ROY

Steven Matz

AL MOY

A.J. Hinch

NL MOY

Joe Maddon

Who’s the Most Exciting Player on the Mets?

As we near spring training and inch closer to the beginning of the regular season, roles on every MLB team begin to crystallize. Teams identify their closers, determine how they’ll allocate playing time, and figure out the bottoms of their rotations.

While these roles are important to teams, as a Mets fan, at this point, I don’t really care if Lucas Duda hits fourth or fifth, or if Addison Reed or Antonio Bastardo enters the season as the setup man. What I care about is the player who gets me pumped for the game each night, the player who forces me to come to Citi Field simply to see him play, the player who gets me emotionally invested in the Mets.

What we’ll do today is figure out who that player is. Let’s get started.

Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes is tremendously exciting. His immense power is fearsome to behold and he plays the game with a joy that’s easy to see.

His play in the outfield is what sets him apart from other sluggers. Not his good play, mind you, but the kind of riveting drama that comes with not knowing whether or not he’ll catch a routine fly ball.

To be fair, his mistakes aren’t at the level of Kyle Schwarber’s fielding gaffes, but they’re still pretty painful.

However, there’s still plenty of good along with the bad.

In addition to those magnificent throws, one of Cespedes’ more entertaining quirks is his penchant for, after making a catch, throwing the ball back to the infield underhand.

Cespedes is very exciting, of course, but a lot of his excitement stems from his mistakes, removing the favorite from contention early on.

Jeurys Familia 

Familia too is a riveting player. The 26-year old took over the closer job last season and kept it for the rest of the year, racking up 48 saves.

He wields a variety of wicked pitches. The movement on this pitch is absolutely ridiculous:

Familia was good enough that he was able to come into games and easily shut the door on any potential threat. Just take a look at what he did to the Nationals at the end of one game last year:

Simply evil. That second strikeout, the one that came against 2015’s NL MVP, Bryce Harper, came on a filthy 96 mph splitter.

Most important, however, are his entertaining post-save celebrations.

You can’t be a good closer without being able to celebrate effusively after a successful save.

Familia’s case for being the Mets’ most exciting player has a serious flaw: Wouldn’t anyone put in his position be exciting? I mean, he’s a closer on a contending team, one that has provided him with plenty of opportunities for saves. In the pivotal ninth inning situations in which Familia most often appeared, Mets fans would have been glued to the TV regardless of who the closer was.

To be clear, Familia’s certainly not a run-of-the-mill pitcher, but I don’t think he’s quite worthy of the title of being the Mets’ most exciting player.

Noah Syndergaard

Syndergaard, put simply, is electric. Last year, as a rookie, no other starter averaged a faster pitch than Thor’s 97.3 mph four-seam fastball.

I love watching Syndergaard’s smooth delivery and unfair pitches. While writing this section, I went down a forty-minute wormhole of watching GIFs of Syndergaard. Here are the four best I found:

That pitch looked like it decided, about halfway to the plate, to slow down of its own volition. The best part of that pitch? The batter, Justin Turner, turning to the umpire afterwards, probably saying something like: “We need a rule change. That can’t happen again. That’s completely unfair.” The scary thing is that he might be right.

Ho-hum, just another nasty pitch to strike out the 2015 NL MVP.

Perhaps hitters should start wearing chin straps on their helmets when they’re facing Syndergaard. After all, it’s kind of embarrassing when you completely whiff on a pitch, spin around completely, and then, adding insult to injury, lose your helmet in the process.

That’s dastardly. That’s a 98 mph pitch that changes direction right as it hits the plate, curving in as a strike, even though it had looked to be a ball. You’ve gotta feel for Yangervis Solarte; there wasn’t anything he could have done about that.

So yeah, Thor is ridiculous. But is he the most exciting Met?

He’s definitely close. He’s got some of the best pitches in the game, and, at 23-years old, he’s only getting better. The problem is that his starts, while spectacular, aren’t quite events. To me, the most exciting player on the team is the guy who forces me to come to Citi Field, simply to bask in his glow, joining the revelry surrounding the game. Syndergaard isn’t quite there yet.

Matt Harvey

I’ve got the same opinion of Harvey as just about every other Mets fan: I like him, but he fell considerably in my eyes after the innings-limit debacle of last season.

However, there’s absolutely no question that Harvey is the Mets’ most exciting player. No one else on the Mets inspires quite the same mix of emotions as him, that unusual combination of mild disgust and disdain coupled with effusive admiration and love.

And, remember the criterion I just mentioned? Harvey’s starts are true events. On Harvey Day, fans come in droves to watch him pitch, sporting Batman masks and cheering on their homegrown star.

Just remember what happened last season in his return to Citi Field after his long absence due to Tommy John surgery? In case you forgot, here’s his first pitch back on the mound:

That chanting, those cheers, that excitement that Harvey produces? That’s what makes him the Mets’ most exciting player.

Cespedes Returns: A Mets Fan’s Perspective

When I found out earlier today that Yoenis Cespedes would be returning to the New York Mets, I was ecstatic. I was dumbfounded. I called my dad and just screamed happily at the phone until he hung up. That’s what happens when your team does what you’ve been asking for, pleading for, praying for all along.

For weeks, now, I’ve been advocating for Cespedes to return to the Mets. Not on a five-year deal, mind you—that’s far too long—but on a shorter contract. I was in favor of a one year contract or a longer one with an early opt-out clause. Unfortunately, that seemed out of the question as Cespedes was reportedly searching for upwards of one hundred million dollars over at least five years.

Free agency wore on, and Cespedes remained unsigned. I started to hope, just a little, that maybe, just maybe, the Mets might be able to snag him on a short contract. Again, I was happy to pay him as much money as he wanted, just not for five years, and as the days rolled by, the chances of that happening slowly increased.

I got worried, really worried, when rumors started rolling in that the Nationals had jumped into the fray. A Washington team with Cespedes and Bryce Harper is a force to be reckoned with, one that might have been able to push the Mets in the divisional race.

But then, late Thursday night, Ken Rosenthal reported that a pair of sources believed that Cespedes would prefer to return to New York. And on Friday morning, Buster Olney reported that the Mets and Cespedes were discussing a three-year contract with an opt-out after the first year, the same exact contract I’d been advocating for all along. By then, I was extraordinarily excited.

Finally, on Saturday morning, news broke that the Mets and Cespedes had agreed to a three-year contract with an opt-out clause. That’s when I called my dad and screamed at the phone. That player! In that lineup! With that pitching staff! On that contract!

And, oh boy, that contract. I mean, this could not have possibly gone any better for the Mets. Cespedes, barring a serious injury, is a cinch to opt out after one season, but that’s fine. We’ll get him for a season of his prime, and although it’ll be extraordinarily expensive, it’s still great. And here’s the kicker: If Cespedes leaves the Mets after next season, the team will recoup a first round draft pick for their troubles. That’s awesome: Cespedes will contribute to both the current great Mets team and the next great Mets team.

To sum it all up, the Mets now have a great player for one of his last valuable seasons and, on top of that, they’ll score an extra first round pick if he leaves in free agency. Kudos to Sandy Alderson and kudos to the Mets’ front office for this spectacular deal.

And to all my fellow Mets fans out there: It’s gonna be a helluva season.

I can’t wait until Opening Day.

Signing Grade: Gordon to the Royals

Earlier today, news broke that the Royals had resigned Alex Gordon to a four year, seventy-two million dollar contract. This pact keeps Gordon, the longest-tenured current Royal, in Kansas City through the 2019 season.

This contract is reasonable and fair to all parties. Although Gordon was originally looking for a contract in the triple-figures, seventy-two million dollars is a far cry from the Royals’ original offer of roughly fifty million. The compromise allows Gordon to remain with the only organization he has ever been with and Kansas City to retain one of its most important players.

On the offensive side, Gordon has been a solid, if unspectacular offensive player, over the past five seasons. He averages nineteen home runs per 162 games played and hits for an average in the high .200s.

Defensively is where Gordon has been a truly above average player. He racked up seven dWAR from 2011 to 2014, according to Baseball-Reference, culminating in a 2.6 dWAR 2014. In addition to more advanced statistics, mainstream opinion also saw him as a superb defensive player as he accumulated four Gold Gloves over that four year stretch.

Gordon sounds great so far, but let’s take a look at why the deal might not end up being a wise decision for the Royals.

Next month, Gordon turns thirty-two. In 2015, his age-31 season, while his offensive production remained solid, his defense took a serious hit. As players age, their defense gets worse, and, for a player who derives much of his value for his defensive skills, that’s a big risk for the Royals to take.

Furthermore, Gordon sustained a groin injury last season, causing him to miss nearly eight weeks. After a clean bill of health over the preceding few years, it’s worrying to see this sort of nagging injury in a veteran player.

In the end, the Royals didn’t have a choice. Gordon was willing to lop off twenty-eight million dollars off his asking price to stay in Kansas City, so denying him wouldn’t have resulted in good press. Besides, Gordon is still a capable player, and, after Jason Heyward was signed, there were no outfielders on the market with the same skill set as him.

Overall, this contract has little upside for the Royals; it is improbable that Gordon outperforms it. However, barring a significant injury, Gordon’s production is unlikely to fall off a cliff. This low-upside, high-floor signing is a reasonable move for the defending champions, and while they don’t deserve to be lauded for this deal, they should not be criticized for it either.

Grade: B+

Trade Grade: Chapman to the Yankees

Earlier today, news broke that Aroldis Chapman was being traded to the Yankees in return for four prospects, Tony Renda, Caleb Cotham, Eric Jagielo, and Rookie Davis.

Cincinnati Reds

This trade is similar to the Todd Frazier trade in that the Reds again traded away a superstar for some decent prospects.

Renda is yet another second baseman, joining Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon, and Brandon Phillips at the position. Cotham is a good reliever, with seventy-four strikeouts over sixty-six and two-thirds innings,  but he’s twenty-eight so he lacks upside. Jagielo, a third baseman, was a first round pick in 2013, and hit well this past season in the fifty-eight games he spent in Double-A. However, there are questions about whether he is capable of playing third base at the major league level. Finally, Davis is a starter who, at 22, had a good season split between Single and Double-A, striking out nearly a batter an inning.

According to MLB Pipeline, Jagielo and Davis are the sixth and tenth-best prospects in the Yankees’ farm system, so the return for Chapman is much better than what the Reds received for Frazier.

It’s surprising that the Reds got more for Chapman than for Frazier for a couple of reasons. One, Chapman is a free agent after this season, while Frazier will reach free agency after the 2017 season. Two, after a domestic violence incident in October, Chapman could be facing a lengthy suspension. That occurrence already caused the Dodgers to pull out of a trade for him, so being able to trade him while still receiving something of value is an impressive feat for Cincinnati.

Grade: B

New York Yankees

This trade makes New York’s bullpen utterly ridiculous. Between Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and now Chapman, the Yankees now have three of the best relievers in baseball. Teams are trying to copy Kansas City’s strategy of coping with poor starters by building a spectacular bullpen, but this relief corps is far better than the Royals’.

Now, as we noted earlier, Chapman could be facing a suspension for domestic violence. However, there is a potential silver lining. First, the suspension would take place at the beginning of the season, rather than at a pivotal moment in the pennant race. Second, if the suspension is lengthy enough, it could result in the Yankees receiving an extra year of control of Chapman, which would be spectacular for the team.

If New York can make the playoffs, it’s primed for a deep run thanks to their star-studded bullpen. Even factoring in the loss of a pair of good prospects and the public relations hit from Chapman’s domestic violence situation, this trade is a big win for the Yankees.

Grade: A-

Trade Grade: Frazier to the White Sox

Last week, news broke that Todd Frazier was being traded to the White Sox in a three-team trade. Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson, and Micah Johnson headed from the White Sox  to the Dodgers, and the Reds received Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon, and Scott Schebler from the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers

There’s little to say about the Dodgers, who acted as facilitators in this trade. They exchanged three prospects for three better ones, who are closer to the majors.

Johnson and Peraza are similar players, so that part of the trade is a wash. Both are second basemen, both don’t hit well, and both are speedy. The only important difference is that Johnson is two years older than Peraza, so he has a lower ceiling.

Every time I see Trayce Thompson’s name mentioned, immediately afterwards, the writer notes that he’s the brother of Klay Thompson. Out of respect to the former, we won’t mention the latter in this article (hey, wait a second…). Anyways, Thompson, a righty outfielder, was a pleasant surprise for the White Sox last season, hitting .295/.363/.533 across the 44 games he spent in the majors. He’ll be a useful bench player in Los Angeles.

Montas is another solid pick-up. Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ GM, said that the team plans on trying him out as a starter, but he views the twenty-two year-old as a potential  “impact bullpen arm”. Los Angeles’ bullpen was shaky last season behind Kenley Jansen so Montas could help shore up the relief corps.

Although the trade overall was a blockbuster, the Dodgers were not directly involved in the Frazier aspect of it. However, the deal helps Los Angeles improve without incurring a significant cost, making it a solid, if unspectacular trade.

Grade: B+

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were expected to trade away Frazier. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, as the team is currently rebuilding and Frazier will be a free agent after the 2017 season. However, one would expect the team to receive a tad more for their star third baseman.

Looking at their return, it’s easy to wonder what they were thinking. It was the right move to trade Frazier, but the combo of Peraza, Dixon, and Schebler isn’t particularly special.

The latter two players are largely insignificant. Dixon, a second baseman, turns 24 in January. He’s a non-prospect; despite hitting nineteen homers over the past season, one that he split between High-A and Double-A, his OBP was a dismal .303. The 25-year-old Schebler is better than Dixon, but only slightly. He made it to the majors earlier this season for nineteen games, and didn’t acquit himself too poorly, but he struggled in Triple-A and, due to his age, he’s not as likely to improve as a younger player.

Peraza, the apparent headliner of the deal was a top prospect only a year ago, but has since been traded twice, going from Atlanta to Los Angeles and now to Cincinnati. He’s a second baseman and offers a nice amount of speed. However, that speed is mainly appealing to fantasy owners, and a slash line of .293/.316/.378 over 118 games last season in Triple-A isn’t anything to write home about.

In case this wasn’t bad enough for the Reds, they’re not going to have second base available for Peraza and Dixon because their Brandon Phillips trade with the Nationals fell through after Phillips refused to waive his no-trade clause. Phillips is owed $27 million over the next two seasons, so either the Reds will have to eat his contract or find somewhere else for Peraza and Dixon to play.

Not only was the return for Frazier awful, but there’s not even an open spot to play the players received, making this trade an utter catastrophe.

Grade: F

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are the big winners in this trade. The three players they gave up are all solid, as we discussed above, but Frazier is a genuine star. In 2014, he hit 29 home runs before following that up with another 35 this past season. That kind of power is increasingly rare and Chicago did well to snatch Frazier up once he became available.

Frazier will pair with Jose Abreu to form a fearsome duo of right-handed power hitters. That one-two punch should wreak havoc in the cozy confines of US Cellular Field. Chicago’s lineup is solid from top to bottom, with Adam Eaton, Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera, and others flanking the pair of sluggers.

In addition to Frazier being very good, this trade is beneficial for the White Sox because they will no longer have to start Gordon Beckham at third base. Beckham, put simply, is not good, and Frazier is a massive upgrade over him. In an American League ridden with parity, one big addition can result in a massive improvement in playoff odds, and, as we all know, once you get into October, anything can happen.

Grade: A

Signing Grade: Heyward to the Cubs

Last week, news broke that Jason Heyward was signed to an eight year, 184 million dollar contract by the Cubs. The contract includes a pair of opt-out clauses, after year three and year four. Those clauses are contingent on Heyward reaching a certain number of plate appearances.

The big winner here is obviously Heyward. 184 million dollars is a massive amount of money, and, thanks to the opt-out clauses, he’ll be able to re-enter free agency at age 29 or 30, where he’ll be able to land another big contract.

Heyward has to thank Atlanta for its help. The Braves brought him up to the majors at age 20, allowing him to reach free agency at 26, unlike most others, who reach free agency in their late twenties.

This is a great deal for Chicago as well. Due to his relative youth, a lengthy contract isn’t much of a burden. The deal keeps Heyward (barring any opt-outs) in Chicago until he’s 34, when, while he’ll have left his prime, he’ll still be a solid player.

The best thing about this contract from Chicago’s point of view is that Heyward, despite being a free agent, is roughly the same age as the rest of their young studs. Heyward is 26, a day younger than Anthony Rizzo, while the rest of the young core consists of the 23-year olds Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez, the 22-year old Kyle Schwarber, and the 21-year old Addison Russell. That lineup is loaded, and it’ll be loaded for the rest of the decade.

There’s only one potential problem. Heyward derives much of his value from his spectacular defense in right field. However, that’s where Soler plays, so Heyward, as of now, is expected to play in center field. He’s played there before, although not extensively; throughout his career he’s spent a total of 233 innings in center field.

The Cubs are fine with Heyward playing center field, but another option open to them is trading Soler, putting Heyward in right field, and then signing one of the free agent center fielders including Denard Span, Gerardo Parra, and Dexter Fowler, who played for the Cubs this past season.

Either way, when the only quibble with this contract is the mild problem of whether Heyward will be a good or great center fielder if he ends up playing there, it’s a pretty good deal.

Grade: A

Trade Grade: Castro for Warren and Ryan

Earlier this week, the Cubs traded Starlin Castro for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan.

New York Yankees

Castro is a solid player. He can play both shortstop and second base, and flexibility at a pair of hard-to-fill positions is a valuable commodity in today’s MLB.

To get Castro, the Yankees gave up Warren and Ryan. Warren was expected to compete for a spot in the Yankees’ rotation this spring after pitching well last season, but now that he’s gone, New York will likely turn to CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova to compete for the fifth slot, behind Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi. Ryan was nothing more than an occasional starter at second base, the position that Castro will now occupy, so his absence won’t be missed.

Castro is an interesting asset. Although this will be his seventh season in the big leagues, he’s still only 26 and is signed through 2019, his age-29 season, with a club option for 2020. His contract isn’t onerous, as over the next four seasons, Castro is owed 37 million dollars, plus the club option, which will cost sixteen million dollars (or a one million dollar buyout).

On the other hand, since a spectacular first couple of seasons in the majors, Castro has regressed badly, with a .296 OBP last season. However, there may be reason for optimism. After moving from shortstop to second base last season, across 44 games, Castro played better defense while hitting .353/.374/.594. Obviously, Castro won’t put up those stats over a full campaign, but if he can approach his production from his first couple of seasons, then this trade will be a coup for the Yankees.

Grade: B

Chicago Cubs

I’m not sure why the Cubs made this trade. Yes, Castro was expendable because Addison Russell and Javier Baez will be occupying the middle-infield positions for the foreseeable future, but couldn’t Chicago have gotten something a little more useful for a young, relatively cheap player?

Ryan has a reputation for being a spectacular defensive shortstop, with his four year peak producing 12.4 WAR (as per Baseball-Reference). However, that peak was from 2009 to 2012, at which point his defensive production fell off a cliff, going from 3.6 dWAR (defensive WAR) in 2012 to .7 dWAR in 2013. Last season, he reached his nadir, producing negative value as a defender. He can’t hit for his life, which was acceptable when he was a world-class defender, but now that he can’t play defense any more, simply put, he’s an awful player.

The Cubs don’t need him whatsoever, with shortstop reserved for Russell for years to come, so I imagine he was just a throw-in and that Warren was their main target.

Warren pitched well last season, with a 3.29 ERA across 131.1 innings, including seventeen starts. This isn’t a fluke as his combined ERA across his three full seasons is 3.23. The problem is that there’s no space in the rotation for him, with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks occupying every spot in the strangely J-heavy Chicago rotation.

Warren has also pitched in the bullpen, so he’ll likely begin next season as a reliever. He’ll be perfectly fine in relief, but is a solid reliever really worth Castro? Apparently, the Cubs think so, but I’m dubious.

Grade: C+

Trade Grade: Walker for Niese

Earlier today, news broke that the Mets were trading Jonathon Niese to the Pirates for Neil Walker.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were rumored to be going after pitching, and they got a decent starter on a great contract. To get this valuable asset, they gave up a good offensive second baseman.

By moving Walker, Pittsburgh frees up a starting spot. Last season, for six positions (CF, LF, RF, 3B, 2B, SS) they had seven players who needed to start. Now that Walker is gone, Josh Harrison, a flexible defender and a decent hitter, can move to second, and the players who deserve to start will start.

Niese is a great acquisition for Pittsburgh. The Pirate rotation is shaky behind aces Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, and Niese is as dependable as they come. The lefty has an ERA of 3.65 over the last four seasons combined, which is a #3 starter nearly any team would be happy to have.

Additionally, Niese is even more valuable because of his contract. Niese is owed nine million dollars this season, with two club options for the two seasons after for ten and eleven million dollars, respectively, along with a five-hundred thousand dollar buyout if the option is declined. While thirty million dollars seems like a sizable amount of money to spend on a solid pitcher, in today’s league, where half-decent pitchers are seeking eighty-million dollars over five years in free agency, that’s a very good contract.

The Pirates didn’t get a coup with this deal. They didn’t rip the Mets off. Instead, they got exactly what they needed without giving up anything they couldn’t live without.

Grade: A

New York Mets

The Mets needed a second baseman after Ben Zobrist signed with Chicago and other than perhaps Daniel Murphy, Walker was the best available.

Niese was expendable due to the Mets’ wealth of pitching. New York currently has four of its five rotation slots occupied, between Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. With Zack Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery in the middle of the season, there wasn’t going to be anywhere for Niese to pitch as a starter.

The Mets needed a second baseman to replace the departed Murphy, and Walker certainly fits the bill. Walker gains value due to his flexibility as a switch-hitter and, similarly to the player he was traded for, is remarkably consistent. Every season, Walker hits about .270 with a home run total in the mid-teens and an above-average OPS+. Anthony DiComo also noted Walker’s consistent production:

Walker is only under contract for this season, which means that the Mets can feel free to move on from him after the season and hand the reins to Dilson Herrera or Wilmer Flores. Until then, though, it’ll be nice to have yet another solid player to add to a roster full of them.

It’s tough to give up Niese because of his great contract and the fact that he was effective as both a starter and reliever, but Walker is a good player. I bet the Mets could have found a better offer, especially if they waited until the end of free agency for the teams who missed out on their starting pitching targets, but, again, Walker will help the team this season without bogging them down for years to come.

Grade: B+

It’s Official: The Mets are Back

I can’t stay quiet about this.

On Sunday Night Baseball, on national TV, I just watched the Mets finish off a sweep of the Nationals team that was picked by everyone in the world to run away with the NL East this season.

Everyone in the world was wrong.

Washington may end up winning the division, but, as of now, the Mets are tied with them atop it, and they’re not going away without a fight.

I was eight years old the last time the Mets were relevant, way back in 2008. Since then, all I’ve gotten to see has been season after season of win totals in the 70s and empty seats in Citi Field.

But that’s over now.

Sure, more fans are coming to the games, but you can figure that out from ticket sales. More important is that, for the first time in years, us fans are emotionally invested in this team.

For instance, last Wednesday night, as has been discussed countless times since then, Wilmer Flores cried on the field after hearing that he had been traded from the team he’s been part of for a third of his life.

Of course, he heard incorrectly and remained with the team, but nonetheless, Mets fans have been making it up to him. Chants and cheers have greeted him each time he’s stepped up to the plate, and on Friday night, he reciprocated.

On a 1-1 count, in the bottom of the twelfth inning, Flores slammed a walk-off home run, and the stadium erupted.

The next day, Flores went 0-4, so Lucas Duda was the hero, driving in all three Met runs with a double and a couple of solo homers.

And then Sunday night. Two outs and a man on first. Curtis Granderson hits a homer. The next pitch, Daniel Murphy does the same. And after a hit from the newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes, Duda hits yet another home run. That makes it nine home runs in his last eight games, an feat unprecedented in Mets history.

Now we have to talk about Cespedes. He’s a rental and a very good player, not a great one, but honestly, who cares? Sandy Alderson finally made the big splash that us Mets faithful have been dreaming about, proving that our pleas are not in vain, and that he’s been listening all along.

Even better, what did the Mets give up? A couple of minor league pitchers, who, even if they’re good, won’t make it onto the team because of the wealth of starting pitching the Mets currently enjoy.

Here’s a fun fact that illustrates the amazing combination of youth and talent the Mets’ starters possess. The three Mets starters over the weekend pitched 21 2/3 innings, gave up 5 earned runs, and struck out 25. Their combined age? 75.

No wonder no one wants to face the Mets in the playoffs.

In addition to Cespedes, Alderson made a couple of under-the-radar moves that improved the team, acquiring Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves and Tyler Clippard from the Athletics. In both trades, Alderson gave up little of value, but added a couple of useful hitters and an elite reliever. In fact, because Jeurys Familia had pitched the last three games, Clippard earned the save in Sunday’s game.

The hitting is passable, especially now that Cespedes has been added, but at this point, they only need to score three runs to win.

With an improved lineup and dominant pitching the Mets are on the road to October baseball. And after sweeping the Nationals I think it’s now official: the Mets are back.