We missed the first series, but the Washington Nationals hosting the injury-ravaged New York Mets means it’s time for yet another Q&A with Long Island-native, Eric McErlain (not pictured). He’s the all-time leader is guest prognosticator posts and one of the godfathers of sports blogging.
WFY: It seemed like last year the Mets were all of the DL at once, yet they still made the play-in game. Not to get all Matt Williams-like on moral victories, but to that outside observer, that’s impressive. How do you feel about the 2016 Mets?
EMc: In terms of the team’s entire history, last year was a lot of fun. Terry Collins knows how to keep a team motivated, and I credit him – along with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman holding up the back end of the rotation after losing Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz – for making it happen.
That being said, I don’t think the team did enough to improve in the offseason, and I’m not sure you can count on being able to beat up on Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia forever. I think this is a .500 ballclub because everyone else in the East is just a little bit better.
WFY: Noah Syndergaard leads what’s theoretically a very strong rotation if healthy. What’s the rotation status right now and is Matt Harvey getting the signal-to-noise ratio back to healthier levels?
EMc: Thor is the ace, with deGrom and Harvey essentially 2 and 2a. Harvey has been fine, and actually has more wins than deGrom, even though deGrom leads the rotation in strikeouts. The problem is at #4 and #5. Robert Gsellman has yet to recapture his late season magic from 2015. While I’m happy to see Zack Wheeler healthy again, and his velocity has actually improved, his results are much the same — hit or miss. The guy gets talked about like he’s a potential ace, but he always seems to be laboring and running his pitch count over 100 before the end of the fifth inning. The one guy they miss is Seth Lugo, who pitched great in the WBC, and then hurt himself when he overthrew in his last Spring start with the team in hopes of elbowing his way back into the rotation. Now he’s on the DL with Matz. Having one or both of them back with the big club would be a big help, but there are problems elsewhere. Now we hear that Thor has been scratched from his Thursday start, but expects to be back for his Sunday start here in D.C. When will this end?
WFY: What about the Amazins bullpen? The Nats bullpen seems like a train wreck in a tire fire to DC fans, but a lot of bullpens are struggling this month.
EMc: For all the talk about Jerys Familia, the real MVP for the Mets last season was Addison Reed. 40 holds and another 13 games finished. Man was money and set the table for Familia all season. We all know about Familia’s troubles this offseason, and he got a 15-game suspension to start the season. He’s back, but the damage was done. That meant Reed moving into the closer role, while Fernando Salas became a less than effective set up man. With all the mixing and matching, the bullpen is 4/8 in save opportunities. Still, that’s not the real problem.
WFY: How about the Mets offensive attack? Yoenis Cespedes and then what? Is 234 year old David Wright still hurt?
EMc: Ay, that’s the rub. The Mets are 29th in MLB in batting and 21st in runs scored. If they don’t hit home runs, they don’t win, and these days, they’re not hitting a damn thing. Jose Reyes, who has been the stop gap to spell Wright at 3B is kill, kill, killing them with his inability to hit or get on base. Jose has always been a free swinger, but a .114/.205/.348 slash line is something the Amazins can ill afford.
Along with Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Mike Conforto have been carrying the team offensively. Unfortunately, the rest of the crew is stinking it up.
As for David, he’s Don Mattingly in orange, white and blue. I’ve given up on him ever coming back and being an everyday player. It’s incredibly sad.
WFY: The Nats and Mets have faced off already with the Nats sweeping the series. How have the Mets done since then?
EMc: The Mets have lost nine of 10. Thanks for reminding me.
WFY: How do you feel about the Mets click-bait player development strategy?
EMc: The last two years when we made the playoffs for only the second time in team history, I felt great. Now, with everyone injured AGAIN, and nobody left in the minors to fill in, I feel terrible about it.
WFY: Has attendance picked up in Queens with the Mets resurgence? Is it a place I could go in Nats gear with my 3rd grader?
EMc: This is not 1973 and Citifield is not Shea Stadium. Visit Flushing without fear.
WFY: Let’s take a brief detour and talk about another one of the blue and orange teams, the Islanders. I understand the Brooklyn situation is not really working out for them. I heard that they might be looking at moving to Flushing too. Does it look like they’ll find another home on Long Island?
EMc: Both the owners of the Barclays Center and the Isles have out clauses they can exercise. It’s been widely reported that the arena owners are getting KILLED financially on this deal, so they’ll exercise the out ASAP. That leaves Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin on the prowl for a new home, with two reported options: right next to Citifield in Flushing or alongside Belmont Park right on the Queens/Nassau County border. As I grew up a 10-minute walk from the latter location and my parents still live there, that’s the choice I’m rooting for. The Isles needs to be outside NYC.
WFY: Speaking of hockey, who ya got in the Caps-Pens series?
EMc: Caps in 7, but we’re all going to want to die before it’s over.