The New York Mets Big Apples
Making the postseason and winning the world series is the ultimate goal of every major league baseball team. Only ten teams can make the playoffs with one winning it all. But that does not mean a team’s season can be labeled a failure if they didn’t win the world series. The 2019 New York Mets had their share of bad moments. There was also a lot of great things during the 2019 season. The Mets found a new face of the franchise in a rookie who should eventually be named the National League Rookie of the year. Here is a look at the New York Mets Big Apples for the 2019 season.
Polar Bear Pete Alonso
As a true rookie Pete Alonso had the kind of magical season every 12-year-old boy dreams of. Alonso slugged 53 HR setting a major league record for rookies and also becoming the first rookie player to ever lead the Major Leagues in HR. But there was so much more to Alonso’s season. Alonso finished with a .260 batting average and a slugging percentage of .586 while driving in 120 runs and scoring 102.
The offensive season Alonso had ranks among the very best any New York Mets player has ever had. Aside from the HR total, Alonso set other Met single-season records with 85 extra-base hits and 347 total bases.
Alonso also made an impact off the field. He donated 10 percent of his winnings from the Home Run Derby to Wounded Warriors and Tunnel to Towers Foundation. On September 11th Alonso bought all his teammates custom made USA themed cleats. The cleats were a tribute to the first responders and the people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks against our country.
When Jacob deGrom had one of the best seasons by a pitcher in Major League history in 2018 all of the talk was will the Mets give him a contract extension. Believe it or not, this was a hot debate amongst Met fans and media members. After all, deGrom just had a career year and was 30 years old and the Mets still had him under team control.
One morning in late March it was announced the Mets resigned their ace pitcher to a 5 year 120 million contract to keep him in Queens until the age of 36. All deGrom did was likely win his second straight National League Cy Young award. While it was going to be next to impossible to outperform his 2018 season deGrom did give the Mets another magical season.
deGrom went 11-8 with a 2.43 ERA and a .971 WHIP. deGrom also whiffed 255 batters and pitched over 200 innings for the third straight season. More importantly, deGrom gave the Mets the kind of pitcher that other teams don’t want to face. The Mets always felt on the days deGrom was pitching they were going to win.
This Squirrel Can Hit
On July 24th, 2018 the Mets called up an unheralded 26-year-old player who had a career minor league batting average of .311. All this player did was get base hits. But that didn’t stop the Met fan base from falling in love with Jeff McNeil. When McNeil got the call to the show he batted .329 in 225 at-bats.
McNeil became such a beloved player that the Met fans wanted him in the lineup every day in 2019. It did not matter what defensive position he played. All the fans wanted was to see McNeil hit every day. Boy did he hit. McNeil was batting over .330 for much of this season until injuries in September wore him down. McNeil started to crank out the extra-base hits too. With 38 doubles and 23 HR McNeil proved he could possibly be a middle of the order RBI man. McNeil approached every at-bat like it would be the last one he would ever have and that appealed to the Met fans even more.
J.D. Crash Davis
J.D. Davis is a classic example of a player who just needed a chance to play every day. Luckily the Mets were that team to give him that chance. The Mets traded for Davis in the offseason and the move did not have much fanfare. In a very limited sample with the Houston Astros Davis did not hit. The Astros lineup was stacked and there was not any room for Davis. Davis’ career minor league numbers of a .292 batting average and 105 HR did show he can hit.
Due to injuries the Mets starting playing Davis every day. He finished the season with a batting average of .307 with 22 HR and 57 RBI in just 410 at-bats. The big question now for Davis is what position does he play. Davis who played third base in the minors has been almost exclusively a left fielder for the Mets. There is some speculation Davis can be used as trade bait this offseason. The bigger question is would Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen trade away the best move he made during his first year with the Mets.
Rosey’s Our Man
Amed Rosario burst on the scene in 2017 being labeled the Mets shortstop of the future. Despite showing improvement in 2018 the 23-year-old had his doubters going into the 2019 season. Rosario was involved in trade rumors before the season started. The Mets had Rosario take fly balls in center field before games partly because of injuries and partly because his shortstop defense started to falter.
Now as this season has concluded Rosario has once again planted his flag at shortstop. With the center field experiment over Rosario’s defense at short has improved greatly. Rosario also improved offensively for the second straight year which is a positive sign. Rosario batted .287 with 15 HR and 72 RBI.
Still just 23 years old the question remains if he is still the Mets shortstop of the future. The Mets have two shortstop prospects ranked in the top 100 according to MLB.com. With Ronny Mauricio ranked #80 and Andres Gimenez ranked #92 this is a situation that bears watching. With prospects ranked this high the Mets can always use them as trade chips. Or perhaps they move Rosario in the right trade.
Everyone knows how much of a problem the Mets bullpen is. The one bright spot was the play of Seth Lugo. After closer Edwin Diaz lost his job the Mets were not in any rush to name a new closer. So Lugo became the unofficial closer but not in the way we are used to seeing.
Mets manager Mickey Callaway did not have many options. Callaway was forced to use Lugo for two innings in some appearances. This did at times result in Lugo being unavailable on back to back days and sometimes for a second day. So while the save number of six is not high he was unquestionably the Mets best arm out of the bullpen.
In Lugo’s last two seasons he has thrown 180 innings. His 2.69 ERA and 1.00 WHIP prove how valuable he is. That is a lot of innings for a pitcher who has a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Lugo does have the ability to be an effective starting pitcher but his best value to the Mets might be out of the bullpen.
Team Never Quit
At the All-Star break, the New York Mets were 40-50. But the team never quit. Despite all the adversity and all the heartbreaking losses the Mets never quit. The Mets went on a 21-6 tear right out of the All-Star break to get back into the wild card mix. From that point on the Mets stayed in the race until the last week of the season. The fight in this team was evident even down to the last game of the season where the Mets overcame a two-run deficit in the last inning.
When a team fights this hard and never quits usually that is a tribute to the manager. It remains to be seen if this is enough to save Mickey Callaway’s job.
Mikey Likes It
Michael Conforto finished his second straight season of playing in over 150 games and for the second straight season, his numbers increased. But that still didn’t defuse the lightning rod he has become with the fan base. With a 2019 salary of four million dollars, his production is still a bargain despite the raise he surely will get in arbitration.
Conforto was forced due to injury to play center field despite being a corner outfielder. With the Mets having team control over Conforto for the next two years the one big question is if the Mets will lock him up now. You would certainly think the Mets can get a more team-friendly contract if Conforto gets signed now. But Scott Boras is his agent and he is notorious for letting his clients test the market.
The New York Mets had a lot go right this year. But there was plenty of things that can be better. For the first time in a long time, the Mets have a solid offensive core of young players. Now it is time to build the rest of the team around the core. Tag Brodie Van Wagenen. Your move.