As the injuries keep coming, the depleted and overmatched Mets could very well wind up with their worst record since 2003, when they finished 66-95 and began to convince Fred Wilpon that maybe Art Howe didn’t light up the room so much, after all.
Howe got one more year before being fired, which probably won’t be the case for Terry Collins, even if he’s not to blame for this disaster. But the larger point is this franchise could wind up with its first top five pick in the amateur draft since the ’03 season landed them the third pick in June of 2004.
You remember how that went, right? The Tigers took Justin Verlander at No. 2, which worked out pretty well, and the Mets selected Rice righthander Philip Humber, who somehow threw a perfect game for the White Sox among his 16 career wins in the big leagues—none of which he earned as a Met.
They’ve had only one other top five pick in over 30 years, and that didn’t work out much better: in ‘94, with the first overall selection the Mets took Paul Wilson out of Florida State.
He, of course, together with Bill Pulsipher and Jason Isringhausen, formed a hyped trio of pitching prospects best remembered for a nickname (Generation K) and having their career derailed by injuries in the 1990s—though Isringhausen went on to star as a reliever for other teams.
For that matter, throughout their history, the Mets haven’t fared well with high picks, other than Darryl Strawberry, the No. 1 pick in 1980, and Dwight Gooden, the No. 5 pick two drafts later. And drug use kept even those brilliant talents from realizing their Hall-of-Fame potential.
In any case, the good news for the Mets is that next year’s draft is shaping up to be loaded with talent.
Jim Callis of MLBpipline.com says it should be the best draft since 2011, whose first round produced such stars as Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, and the late Jose Fernandez.
The Mets, of course, selected Brandon Nimmo with the 13th pick in that draft, Sandy Alderson’s first as GM, and while the kid from Wyoming is playing well lately, perhaps even convincing management to give him a shot platooning in center with Juan Lagares next season, scouts remain skeptical that he’ll be an impact player.
Meanwhile, the not-as-good-news is Callis says there are two players that, as of now, stand out as being the class of the draft: University of Florida pitcher Brady Singer, who pitched the Gators to the college World Series, and Brice Turang, a high school shortstop from California.
Even as the sky continues to fall on the Mets, as Wilmer Flores has been ruled out for the year after that freakishly gruesome broken nose, and Asdrubal Cabrera came out of Thursday’s game with a lower-back issue, it’s hard to see them finishing in the bottom two.
The Phillies, White Sox, and Giants, in fact, are likely to wind up with the worst three records, but the Mets are in the next group with the Tigers, A’s, Reds, and Padres that will likely end up somewhere around 70 wins.
The way the Mets are going, 8-17 since Aug. 14th, they might just play their way into the No. 4 spot in the draft. In that position, or possibly No. 5, they would get a can’t-miss type prospect, perhaps Georgia high school pitcher Kumar Rocker or an intriguing hitter in Clemson first baseman Seth Beer, who is considered the best power bat in college.
In other words, at this point in this trainwreck season, the Mets are better off losing their way to the finish to get the highest pick possible. Then they just need to buck their own history and get the right guy.
MO STICK STORIES
There are so many great stories about Stick Michael, the beloved Yankee executive who died on Thursday.
I loved seeing him at the ballpark because you could learn so much just by listening to him talk about what he saw in players with his uncanny knack for evaluating talent.
And he loved talking about not only baseball but his days playing college basketball at Kent State — he insisted he made the wrong career choice as a light-hitting shortstop in the big leagues, when he swore he could have played in the NBA.
Anyway, if you didn’t know already, you’ve surely heard or read by now about how important he was in building the 90s Yankee dynasty — in part by shielding the likes of Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and Andy Pettitte from George Steinbrenner’s irrational desire to trade them before they blossomed into stars.
But he didn’t mind admitting every GM needs a little luck sometimes. In his case, that meant the fortuitous timing that kept him from trading Mariano Rivera.
In 1995 Rivera was still a young starting pitcher who didn’t impress the Yankees during four early-season starts, his fastball clocked at 89-91 mph on the radar gun.
The Yankees sent him down to Triple-A Columbus, where he told trainers his shoulder had been bothering him. After a couple of weeks off, he threw a rain-shortened, five-inning no-hitter for Columbus, hitting 95-96 mph on the radar gun.
As GM at the time, Stick was shocked to get the report of those numbers on his desk in New York the next morning. He was so skeptical that he called a scout from another team he knew had been at the game, told him the Yankees had a problem with their radar gun, but asked about the velocity for three or four other pitchers on both sides so as not to raise suspicions, then finally asked about Rivera.
At the time, Michael had been talking to Tigers’ GM Joe Klein about a possible trade for David Wells, offering Brian Boehringer, to no avail. Klein asked about Rivera and Stick said he was willing to discuss the possibility.
“I never said yes and I never said no,” Stick told me with a sheepish grin in 1996, after Rivera had emerged as a shut-down reliever. “I’m glad I never had to. They were interested but they were looking to get more for Wells. Then when Mariano started throwing 95, it was too late. Nobody was going to get him.”
The Tigers wound up trading Wells to the Reds for C.J. Nitkowski. Stick wound up counting his blessings.
“I still don’t know why Mariano’s velocity jumped like that,” he said years later. “He’d had Tommy John surgery (in 1992), then the little shoulder thing. Maybe he was just finally healthy. I’m just glad it happened then and not a month later or it might have been the worst move I ever made.”
Last week I left J.D. Martinez off of my Top 5 list of in-season impact trades, and that was probably a mistake. With his four-homer night last week, he has hit 18 home runs in 42 games since going from the Tigers to the Diamondbacks, and has put up a .990 OPS to help spark Arizona’s spectacular play of late.
As one of the top free agents this winter, the 30-year old Martinez would fit nicely in right field for the Mets, but will they pursue him?
Put it this way: they have to get a thumper for their offense, and since I don’t think Jay Bruce will return, it could come down to spending on either Martinez in the outfield or Mike Moustakas at third base.
Alderson is now admitting he needs to bring in a veteran starting pitcher, and even with Jeurys Familia back I think they need another top reliever, but they have to bring in at least one big bat.
Martinez is a better all-around hitter, but is he a better fit? Let me watch Nimmo for a few more weeks before I have to decide.
Is Dustin Pedroia kidding? It’s fine if he wants to downplay the Red Sox sign-stealing controversy, but don’t insult everyone by pretending that using an Apple Watch in the dugout to help break the Yankees’ code is on the same level as what he was doing in junior high.
“It’s been around a long, long time,” he told reporters in Boston when the story broke. “We were doing that at Douglass Junior High School (in Woodland, California), where I played. So, I don’t think this should be news to everybody.”
It was news to Major League Baseball.