As I see it, there are two keys to the Mets upcoming season if they expect to win the NL East or get into the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
Key #1 is Michael Conforto.
The Mets selected (under Sandy Alderson’s watch BTW) the Oregon State product with the 10th overall pick of the 2014 Amateur Draft. Conforto has always had that “sweet” left handed swing. Fans got a real taste of his ability when Conforto slammed two home runs in game 4 of the 2015 World Series against Kansas City.
Conforto started to show signs of being a consistent big league hitter until he suffered that crushing shoulder injury in August 2017.
In 2018, Conforto struggled in the first half of the season as he was rebounding from the injury but really came on in the second half. If the Mets get the Conforto from the second half of the 2018 season, the Mets may have a legitimate MVP candidate.
There was some thought that Conforto’s first half was a result of coming off the injury. I felt Conforto got screwed up a bit by changing his swing to adjust the “launch angle.” Conforto started to pull off in trying to hit the ball in the air, wasn’t using the whole field as he is capable of doing and gave pitchers more ways to exploit him. In the second half, Conforto’s swing leveled off, thus the better production.
Key #2 is the Mets success against their own division. The NL East is so balanced in that any of four teams could win the Division so the Divisional games become even more important.
Last season, the Mets were 40-36 vs. the NL East, but only 6-13 against the first place Braves. Atlanta was 49-27 against their own division and won it by eight games over Washington and 13 better than the Mets.
Once and for all, the Mets have to end this hold that the Braves have on them. The games vs. Atlanta will be just as important to the Mets as the games against Boston will be for the Yankees.
Who would’ve thunk it. The classic Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First” routine may just apply to teams that have a glut of infielders and plan on utilizing them in different ways. So “Who’s on first, what’s on second, I don’t know is on third” would be an appropriate slogan for today’s philosophy on the use of versatility.
The Yankees fit the “Who’s on first” part of that routine. Mgr. Aaron Boone said D.J. LeMahieu will be the back up first baseman so who will be the starter, with the competitors being Luke Voit and Greg Bird. The Yankees cannot state their preference but they have to be hoping that Bird wins back the job because a dearth of left hand hitting could derail a run to the World Series.
It’s been ten years since the Yankees last won the whole deal and only two players are left from that team, Brett Gardner and C.C. Sabathia.
Gardner was quoted in today’s edition of the NY Post as saying “It’s been a disappointing ten years. It’s been more disappointing for me and I have lost a lot more sleep.”
I give Gardner credit for holding himself somewhat accountable considering his awful career numbers in the post season. In 52 post season games, the popular Yankee has a .202/.259/.248 slash line with 1 post season HR and 16 runs scored.
LAST LICKS: So saddened to hear about Nick Cafardo. I didn’t know Nick that well but I was friendly with him when he was at Yankee Stadium when the Red Sox came in. Nick Cafardo was a rare breed in that he was universally respected. Like everyone else, I loved reading Nick’s column in the Boston Globe. You could feel Nick’s passion and his baseball acumen by just reading his words. RIP Nick Cafardo…..We lost another respected member of the baseball community when 92 year old Tommy “T-Bone” Giordano passed away a little over a week ago. If you’re interested, there will be a tribute for “T-Bone” on March 31st at Foley’s, the best baseball bar in the city, beginning at 5 PM. Foley’s is located on 18 W 33rd Street, between 5th and 6th avenue. “T-Bone” was my friend and I will miss hi dearly….. ICYMI: Sonny Gray was scratched from his scheduled Cactus League start on Saturday because of right elbow stiffness. Good luck, Cincinnati.