In his “State of the Mets Mess” address last week, Steve Cohen exonerated Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter — for now — but also made clear his intention to hire a president of baseball operations after the season to address what needs to be done with this $344 million disaster of his.
Cohen said he didn’t know what the reason was for the Mets’ pratfall; that “there’s plenty of blame to go around” — which there is. But while he and Eppler must share the blame for putting this team together, Showalter has been simply blindsided. After winning 101 games last season and being named NL Manager of the Year, it’s fairly certain Showalter could not have imagined being ripped on the air by the Mets’ own lead broadcaster Gary Cohen, any more than he could have envisioned two of his best hitters and most important offensive cogs a year ago, Jeff McNeil and Starling Marte, disappearing into the witness protection program this year.
Though Steve Cohen has insisted that Showalter, who is signed through 2024, is safe, it sure sounded like Gary Cohen, in his criticism of Showalter’s handling of the bullpen in the eighth inning of last Saturday’s 7-6 loss to the Phillies, had joined the chorus of the local talk radio yahoos calling for the manager’s firing. Galling to the Mets lead TV broadcaster was Showalter failing to bring in either of his top relievers, David Robertson or Adam Ottavino during the bullpen’s epic meltdown. “Buck Showalter tried to stay away from his best relievers and the Mets paid the price,” the irate Cohen railed.
What Cohen didn’t know was that Showalter had been informed before the game that Ottavino was unavailable to him — and if he had brought Robertson in, he, too would have been unavailable to pitch the ninth because he’d pitched 1 2/3 innings to close out the win the night before. For the uninitiated: One of the “load management” tenets of analytics is no back-to-back multiple inning saves.
By now, however, owner Cohen may feel he himself has been blindsided by this entire Mets collapse. As the losses continue to mount — the most expensive team in baseball went into the weekend nine games under .500, in 9th place in the wild card standings with leakage everywhere: A collective .240 team batting average, including McNeil some 71 points under his league leading .326 last year while collaborating with Marte for a paltry seven homers and 45 RBI; and a pitching rotation that, according to the Elias Bureau, is averaging just 5.08 innings per start, 21st worst in baseball. On top of that, Showalter’s bullpen has a 4.28 ERA (23rd worst in the majors) and an 11.38 WHIP (20th). Overall, the Mets’ pitching staff’s 4.59 ERA is better than only four teams, the Reds, Royals, Rockies and Athletics.
At this point, the Mets owner would be wise to tell Eppler to just stand pat at the trading deadline — unless, however, some team is willing to sacrifice legitimate high end pitching prospects for either Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Marte or even McNeil, which is highly unlikely. It’s alarming just how bereft of quality pitching the Mets are throughout the entire organization, and upon that realization maybe that’s why Cohen seemed to put a new emphasis on hiring a Baseball Ops chief last week.
The worst kept secret in baseball has been that Cohen is waiting for David Stearns’ contract with the Brewers to expire at the end of the season. But if Cohen is having any second thoughts about Eppler and his emphasis on analytics, he should know that Stearns is analytics on steroids. He should also want to question why in his seven years as GM in Milwaukee, the Brewers never won anything. A Harvard-educated New York native, Stearns got his start in baseball in MLB’s central office — a breeding grounds for analytics-oriented execs. Two of whom in particular, Jeff Bridich and Matt Klentak, went on to become miserable failures as GMs with the Rockies and Phillies respectively.
In his time as Brewers GM, Stearns made one outstanding trade, fleecing Derek Jeter and the Marlins out of Christian Yelich in 2018 for four players that never did anything in Miami — and a bunch of other not-so-great trades. Most notably giving up on slugger Khris Davis, who went on to have three straight 40-plus home run seasons for Oakland in 2016-18, and last year’s inexplicable trade of popular closer Josh Hader to the Padres, the day before the trade deadline when the Brewers were in first place. The deal so upset the clubhouse chemistry, the Brewers went into a deep dive, winding up seven games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central, failing to make the postseason, and Stearns, at owner Mark Attanasio’s request, stepped down as GM into an advisory role for the final year of his contract.
Cohen should take all of this into deep consideration. Hiring Stearns would be a commitment by the Mets to be all-in on analytics — and potentially another blind side for Showalter. For, interestingly, Brewers manager Craig Counsell is also in the last year of his contract and has so far rebuffed extension overtures by the club. Is he waiting to see what transpires with his former boss?
IT’S A MADD, MADD WORLD
For what it’s worth, the Mets have good company in the Padres, the third highest payroll team at $246.5M, for the distinction of the most underachieving teams in baseball. Like the Mets, the Padres are wallowing under .500 and eighth in the wild card standings. Unlike the Mets, however, the Padres’ clubhouse is said to be rife with dissension and no team unity. Manny Machado, the supposed team leader, is in the first year of his 11-year, $350M contract hitting a paltry .248 with just nine homers and 33 RBI. Xander Bogaerts, after signing his whopping 11-year/$280M deal last winter, is said to be having regrets going to San Diego and is hitting some 30 points below his lifetime .290 average. Matt Carpenter is hitting .182 as the DH. Second baseman Jake Cronenworth, an All-Star each of the last two seasons, is hitting .208, and Juan Soto, for whom the Padres gave up a ton of top quality prospects to the Nationals after he turned down a $440 million extension from Washington, is having a very ordinary season (.268 with as many strikeouts as hits as of Friday). It’s hard to imagine any team paying him anything close to that now. Indeed, the Padres are in the process of taking down Bob Melvin, long one of the most respected managers in the game. Word is the Padre brass is urging Melvin to show more fire and kick more butt but that’s not his style and it’s probably going to cost him as ownership is in need of someone to blame for this colossal flop.
Source: Berkshire mont