Sunday evening Johnny Monell watched his New York Mets teammates lose Game 5 of the World Series at his home in Southern New Jersey. The Bronx native who played high school baseball at Christopher Columbus HIgh School off Astor Avenue and sandlot games on ballfields in the borough did not bow his head in sorrow.
And neither did his teammates bow their heads in sorrow as they packed their bags and headed home for the winter in the Mets clubhouse early Monday morning.
“A lot of people didn’t think we were going this far,” Monell said. He was packing his bags for more baseball and preparing to play winter ball in Puerto Rico. The Mets signed the 29-year old catcher as a free agent last November to a one-year deal as a backup.
Monell knew his playing time would be limited because the Mets are deep in the catching department, but his good spring got him an opportunity to be a part of their 40-man roster and he offered some depth off the bench as a left handed hitter.
In 27 games this season, Monell as a starter and off the bench had eight hits, scored five runs and drove in four, and the Mets are expected to tender his contract to be a part of that 40-man roster when spring training begins in mid February.
That time with the team this season, beginning last February down in Port St. Lucie Florida, gave Monell a first hand look at how deep and strong the Mets front line pitching is. More so the core of youngsters such as Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz could take the Mets deep into next October and many more in the years ahead.
The World Series was more than what the experts predicted for the Mets, but Monell was a first hand observer as to why this team would play deep into October.
“The pitching staff did it all,” Monell said “They kept us in games and that’s the beauty about having good pitching. The guys were ready to compete and came together and it turned out to be a good season.”
And that young starting core helped the Mets to a franchise fifth World Series. Sunday night Matt Harvey with a pitch count at 102 went into the ninth inning. His composure and competitive nature showed by pleading with manager Terry Collins to keep him in the game, but one walk and a run scoring double got him into trouble.
The Mets bullpen and defense were the culprits in their season ending 7-2 loss as the Kansas City Royals celebrated their first world championship since 1985 on the turf at Citi Field.
He said as a whole, the team and pitching staff can only learn and get better from this World Series experience. “The experience factor you get from these games and going forward will be fun to watch,” he said.
Regarding Harvey, who made that plea, that was caught by the Fox television cameras, Monell said the manager is the one who ultimately made the decision whether it was right or wrong.
“Terry makes the decisions. Harvey did a real good job. You can’t second guess Harvey who had the hot hand. The bullpen has been phenomenal and something the manager wanted to do.” And in baseball you go with the percentages, though that did not work out because the Mets bullpen could not hold the Royals in three games that could have been won.
Collins was impressed with the left hand power Monell provided in the spring with his five home runs. When the Mets were struggling to score runs the first three months of the season ,and with a roster spot open because starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud went down with an injury to his hand, Monell got the call and arrived from Las Vegas.
He was home again. His father, Johnny Monell Sr. had a brief stint on the Mets roster as a catcher 20 years ago, so the call to be with the big league club was special even if it meant limited starts with another backup catcher in place with Anthony Recker.
Despite the sour ending, the Mets did more than expected. Monell got that first hand look early in the spring, especially with the rookie Syndergaard who was called up from Triple A Las Vegas in June and threw a fastball clocked at 101 in the postseason, something that also had the Dodgers, Cubs and Royals and the baseball world talking.
The discussion is the Mets will eventually build to get back to the World Series and this was the first of many more years of postseason baseball because of their rich depth in the pitching department.
“Knew that the guys had pitching,” Monell said and he explained they learned more watching and being a part of the five games before it all ended. “We really didn’t come together offensively because of the consistency, but they also have good pitching. There was not a moment we did not give up and at the end of the day I am proud of my teammates.”
Monell added: :You get to the World Series and finish, win or lose it’s something to gain on. At the same time winning would have been special. Not many get to the World Series. It’s a privilege and an honor and something to move on to next year.”
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