Mancuso: Mets Strike Out On Gio

The Yankees saw no need for Gio Gonzalez as a starter and neither did the Mets. Instead the Milwaukee Brewers had a need and Wednesday, Gonzalez reached a deal with his former team for a year that will pay $2 million this season and reportedly $2 million more in incentives.

It came down to being a starter as opposed to a bullpen arm. Gio Gonzalez, a left-hander at 33-years of age always believed he belonged in a rotation. In this case the Mets decided to stick with Jason Vargas and his remaining contract to be their fifth starter.

So Vargas was the starter at Citi Field Wednesday night and Gonzalez, who saw the Mets as his first choice will probably get the start for the Brewers Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. No matter what Vargas says, he was under a lot of pressure after the Gonzalez signing.  Vargas responded with 4.2 innings while giving up one run in the Mets 6-0 loss to the Phillies Wednesday night.

Wednesday afternoon  in the Miami area, Gonzalez was tuning up on a high school field. His next stop is meeting the Brewers in New York on Friday. All through this process, even with a minor league deal with the Yankees, Gio Gonzalez kept the faith.

The left hander wanted the New York Mets. The Mets saw it otherwise. They may have struck out in getting a valuable back end starter for their rotation even though Vargas has delivered in his last two starts. Wednesday night, Vargas struck out Bryce Harper twice and had good command.

If Jason Vargas goes less than five innings in his next start, if the command fails again, Mets fans will ask for better, count on it. Those fans on social media were crying for GM Brodie Van Wagenen to sign Gio Gonzalez. They said that addition would be an upgrade to a struggling  pitching rotation, but the Mets hierarchy believed it was not the right option.

So for now the ball goes to Vargas. Was it the money and specifics of a contract? Or was it analytics that stepped in and returned Gonzalez to Milwaukee?

All through this process, Gonzalez, a 21-game winner in 2012 with the Nationals, believed it was analytics that prevented him from getting a three-year contract. Yes, that 20-win season is now an after thought. Gonzalez has struggled the past few years but has remained injury free. Perhaps that is true to an extent about the analytical system in baseball, but the Mets, as did the Yankees, felt he would be a better fit out of the bullpen.

Gonzalez thanked the Yankees for the minor league opportunity.

He told this writer, “It was a blessing to build my confidence, curve, changeup, fastball. I pitched.  I truly believe the Yankees gave me a good second chance to pitch.”

For the Mets, it was more of Jason Vargas’ contract. They believe Vargas belongs in the rotation. Put this in perspective as another baseball move that is called business.  In the end this will be a matter of time as to the Mets bypassing an all-star who has the track record of providing innings and a chance to win.

A scout who observed Gio Gonzalez at one of his three starts with Scranton said. “He has the velocity.” That was his spring training. Down the line the team that gets Gio will see good results. He hasn’t lost much and his curve was moving.”

The success that Gio Gonzalez has compiled at City Field, 11-1 with a 1.78 ERA should’ve been attractive to the Mets. He said last year after his latest win at Citi Field, “I love the atmosphere here, Love the fans. I would love to pitch here one day for the New York Mets.”

Perhaps that  message did not get into the right ears. And it could have been analytics or the contract of Jason Vargas.  If it was being a bullpen guy as opposed to being a starter, Gio Gonzalez made the right decision.

The Mets had their chance and have not lost faith in Jason Vargas.  In another year, who knows, Gio Gonzalez will be a free agent again.

Comment: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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