Category Archives: Mets

Offseason Outlook for the New York Mets

The New York Mets had a storybook 2015 season. They captured the division crown over the favored Washington Nationals, returned to the postseason for the first time since 2006, and claimed the NL pennant for the fifth time in their history, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs along the way. Their tremendously talented starting rotation paved the path to the World Series, along with key contributions from, among others, Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy.

The legend of the 2015 Mets became less grand, however, as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Mets in 5 games in the World Series. The Mets held a lead in every game of the series, but the resilient Royals capitalized upon defensive miscues and bullpen issues to eke out torturous victories. Murph, the NLCS MVP and provider of countless hilarious gifs (and frequently awful defense) over his years of service with the Mets, booted a key ground ball in Game 4 to allow the Royals to score the tying run. Cespedes, the prized midseason acquistion, developed a habit of kicking misplayed fly balls all around the outfield. Even Wright, the longtime star and captain of this beleaguered ballclub, made a few crucial errors on the way to defeat.

The Royals are no doubt an excellent ballclub. They came 90 feet away from tying up the San Francisco Madbums– sorry, San Francisco Giants, in last year’s World Series, and have quality players at nearly every position. But it seems that, more than anything, the Mets beat themselves in the World Series. In addition to the predictable defensive mistakes that have plagued the Mets all season long, the offense shut down when it was most needed. Excluding Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto, and David Wright in Game 3, the bats just didn’t get the job done.

So now, the Mets head into the 2015 offseason with several goals. They are likely to lose Murphy and Cespedes, as well as backup infielders Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe and several other expendable pitchers (bye, Bartolo. I’ll miss you always). But for a team that should have a renewed focus on defense after a disastrous World Series, these losses provide an opportunity for GM Sandy Alderson to build a more fundamentally sound team. Alderson has done a great job at acquiring the building blocks for a contender. Now, he must prove he can provide the finishing touches to the roster.

With that said, here are several moves which could be the focal points for the Mets this offseason, and which would be beneficial in New York’s quest to return to the postseason and avenge the championship loss.

  1. Acquire a utility infielder

Going into the 2015 season, the question of who would play shortstop for the Mets loomed. Wilmer Flores had more power and prowess at the plate than the better-fielding Ruben Tejada, but neither seemed like the long-term solution. Amidst frequent switching back and forth between the middle infield positions, the two performed decently. Still, if the Mets are going to be serious contenders in 2016, they need to find a decent backup infielder who can provide solid defense around the diamond. This is especially important considering the uncertainty surrounding David Wright’s long term prospects at third base. Someone like free agent Asdrubal Cabrera, most recently of the Tampa Bay Rays, comes to mind. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Mets went after Ben Zobrist, who was fairly good during the postseason for Kansas City. Also to be considered is how prospects Matt Reynolds and Dilson Herrera might factor in. If Alderson deems Reynolds and Herrera can be serviceable backups, he might focus his attention elsewhere.

  1. Find a centerfielder/ fourth outfielder

Curtis Granderson showed he was worth his contract this year, leading the way for the Mets in both the regular season and postseason, and it seems like Michael Conforto will be penciled in as the #3 hitter for the next 10 years in New York. While left and right are covered, though, centerfield remains a question mark. Juan Lagares appeared to be the long term solution in center after two seasons of dominant defensive play. The 26 year old was given a four year contract extension before the 2015 season, but a ligament tear in his right elbow sapped his once-lethal throwing arm of much of its strength and Lagares ended up ceding his starting role to Cespedes after the Cuban’s arrival. Though Cespedes will likely be gone, it’s unclear if Lagares can return to prior form or if he requires Tommy John surgery. Therefore, the Mets will be looking for a versatile outfielder who can man center, especially if Lagares is deemed to need surgery. Someone like Dexter Fowler or Austin Jackson would provide New York with something it’s not had since Jose Reyes– a true leadoff hitter. Colby Rasmus, another potential target, would add some lefty pop to the Mets lineup. It’s possible that the Mets could go after Jason Heyward, but he would come at a high cost and likely shift Granderson over to center, which would not be an ideal defensive alignment. In terms of trade targets, there have been rumblings that the Yankees are interested in dealing Brett Gardner– would the Mets be interested in bringing the speedster across town? Prospect Brandon Nimmo is also an intriguing option, but doubts linger about his defensive capabilities in center.

  1. Bullpen help

In 2015, Jeurys Familia had one of the finest seasons as a closer in the history of the franchise. Slotted in to replace PED lover Jenrry Mejia at the back end of the bullpen in the first few days of the season, Familia starred, saving 43 games in the regular season and five more in the postseason. Familia became the first pitcher to blow three saves in one World Series, but that figure is misleading; in two of those appearances, Familia didn’t give up a hit. Though in recent years there’s been a bit of a revolving door at closer for the Mets, it seems like Familia is the clear choice for the role next season and beyond. Outside of him, though, questions abound. The most reliable relievers in the postseason for the Mets were probably usual starters Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon and midseason acquisition Addison Reed. Niese will slot in as a fifth starter (at least until Zack Wheeler’s return), Colon is likely gone, and Reed is eligible for arbitration. That leaves the Mets with quite a few spots to fill. Assuming that Reed accepts arbitration, the returning members of the Mets bullpen from the World Series roster will be righties Reed and Hansel Robles, lefty Sean Gilmartin, and Familia. Logan Verrett will likely serve in long relief, and it’s possible Niese will return to the ‘pen after Wheeler returns. The makings of a solid bullpen are here, but for it to be elite, the Mets will have to invest in a quality setup man and perhaps a shutdown lefty. Internally, southpaw Josh Smoker could be an option. The 26 year old had an impressive 2015, advancing to AA ball with a heater in the mid-nineties. In addition, Josh Edgin and Jerry Blevins both will return from injury, and it seems likely the Mets can find two or three decent lefties out of the bunch to place in the bullpen. External options for a setup man are intriguing but expensive. Darren O’Day and Joakim Soria will likely fetch impressive contracts on the open market, and potential trade targets like Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel would cost the Mets some of their most prized prospects. It’s up to Sandy to determine whether a devastating one-two punch of Familia and another top reliever would be worth giving up yet another prospect from the shrinking farm system.

The Mets have work to do if they want to be playing baseball again in October and November in 2016. But the heart and soul of the team is only going to get better. The rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz will be together for an entire season (barring injury– please, knock on any wood you can find) and will have another year of development under their belt. Hopefully, New York can find the right pieces to complement their staff.

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The Mets: Sputtering off the Tracks Like a Derailed 7 Line Car

Yesterday was a day of celebration at Citi Field. The weather was gorgeous. The ballpark was mostly full–an unusual and welcome sight. And 50 Cent closed the night with a 90 minute concert that rivaled Nas’ last year.

The Mets are 3-9 in June.

The Mets are 3-9 in June.

The only thing not worth celebrating: the hometown Mets. They put forth a putrid performance against the San Diego Padres, losing 5-0 and managing just two hits. Met starter Zack Wheeler saw his record fall to 2-7 while Jesse Hahn, starting just the second game of his career, embarrassed the Mets’ lineup in six innings of one-hit work. The loss, which came to a Padres team that entered the day 11 games under .500, left the Orange and Blue at 30-38 on the year.

While the Mets’ record is bad, their offense is worse. The two hit effort was a spectacular failure, but it also was hardly a shock given the Mets’ recent  track record. They currently hold the 29th best SLG% and the 28th best batting average in baseball. Their six through eight hole hitters are all dudes batting under .200. Even David Wright, the lone (healthy) star for the fledgling franchise, has been mediocre this year; to date he has a .327 OBP and .358 SLG%. The Mets’ best hitter this year has been none other than 40 year old Bobby Abreu, a late pickup who hasn’t played a full season since 2011. A few weeks ago, the Mets fired their hitting coach.

Let’s not mince words; the 2014 Mets are fairly pathetic. Caught somewhere in limbo, they are playing without their best player (injured pitcher Matt Harvey), with a joke of a starting lineup, and with a hodgepodge rotation that includes Bartolo Colon and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The Mets’ pitching across the board actually isn’t horrible. Jon Niese and Dillon Gee are both solid starting pitchers in the midst of career years. (Although Gee is currently on the DL.) Nonetheless, this Mets team is depressingWith Harvey recovering from Tommy John surgery and Wright caught in a huge slump–and possibly the wrong side of his prime–the relatively good vibrations that were present during last summer’s 74 win campaign have faded.

The Mets recently sent 25 year oldTravid d'Arnaud, who was hitting .180 in 39 games, back to the minors.

25 year old Travid d’Arnaud, who was hitting .180 in 39 games, was recently sent back to the minors.

As was the case a year ago, the Mets’ struggles are packaged with a future that could hold some promise. Harvey, of course, is the center of that future. But, to borrow a quote from the endlessly quotable Yogi Berra, “the future ain’t what it used to be”. There’s no guarantee that  Harvey will return as the hard-throwing hero he was in ’13, and other supposed future stars like Wheeler and catcher Travis d’Arnaud have struggled in major ways this year. Meanwhile, the club’s financial issues remain an ever-present theme for the ball club.

Happy days still could be ahead for the team and their Flushing faithful. But on a day when the Mets got rolled by one of the league’s worst teams and, in the process, made a rookie pitcher look like Pedro in his prime, it’s hard to look at the franchise and see much to get excited about.

50 Cent once asked 21 Questions. It seems that New York Mets’ management might want to start asking some questions too.

 

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Manny Tracker: Manny Signed by Cubs

It’s five days before Manny Ramirez’s 42nd birthday, but the kid who grew up in Washington Heights and went on to become a baseball legend got an early birthday present. Man-Ram signed a deal to join the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate as a player-coach. Cue celebration.

Manny's back. Tell a friend.

Manny’s back. Tell a friend.

This is shocking to me in two ways. First, they signed him as a…player-coach? What? This isn’t the NBA in the 1960s. And Manny as a coach? We LOVVVVVVE Manuel, but do you trust this guy coaching up the kids that represent the Cubs’ future?

But let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. Manny’s back! Which is awesome. And the whole player-coach component makes it, well, awesome-er. Cubs GM Theo Epstein has brought the sport’s most entertaining character back. Epstein says he did not sign Manny with the intention of calling him up to the bigs–his main role will be in mentoring–but that’s good enough for now.

The news also keeps our dream of a Manny-to-the-Mets deal alive. After all, the Mets are batting .233 with a SLG of .352 this year. Manny couldn’t hurt…could he???

To complete the celebration, here’s a clip of the most casual baseball ejection ever, starring none other than Manny.

 

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5 Fearless MLB Predictions: 2014 Edition

Yes, it’s that time of year again: time for me to make some predictions that will almost inevitably look stupid come October. Enjoy.

1. Yankees will come in third in the AL East … but will make the ALCS

Danny Cooper and I agree that the Yankees will come in third. An aging team, a shaky bullpen, and one of the worst infields in the majors? No thanks. That being said, the Yankees have enough juuuust enough talent to make the playoffs. Once there, the emotion brought on by the end of Derek Jeter’s career should carry them to at least the ALCS, and perhaps even further. Now, about that other New York team …

2. The Mets will come in last in the NL East

This one won’t make Tim and Danny happy. The Mets are nowhere close to the Braves or the Nationals; they’ll be locked with the Marlins and Phillies in a race for third. The Phillies are aging, but there’s still some talent left.  The Marlins feature a few electrifying youngsters. Any rotation with Daisuke worries me, and while I’m as big an Ike Davis fan as you’ll ever see, I don’t think he’ll rebound this year. It appears that the Metropolitans and their fans will be in for another long year.

3. The Dodgers will lose in the NLDS

The Trolley Dodgers should have an easy time in the NL West. The Padres and Rockies are both cellar-dwellers, while the D-Backs and Giants are both flawed. However, this is a team that has choke written all over it. I think the pressure placed by the media on the high-spending Dodgers will prove to be too much for them.

4. The Mariners will finish fourth in the AL West

Robinson Cano is one of the best in the game. Same with Felix Hernandez. Everyone else? Not so much. The pitching is highly questionable, and the lineup looks weak as well. The Mariners will need full seasons from the oft-injured Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, and youngsters like Justin Smoak will need to make the jump. Even if everyone plays to their potential, it still might not be enough to finish atop the A’s, Angels, and Rangers. While this offseason marked a step in the right direction for the Mariners, they’re still a few pieces away from competing.

5. My fantasy team will be better than Tim and Danny’s

This isn’t really that bold, considering that they traded Manny Machado, Hanley Ramirez, and Tim Lincecum for David Wright. As always, being a Mets fan proves to be a negative.

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Troy Tulowitzki and the Mets?

About a week ago, a report came from John Harper of the New York Daily News that the Colorado Rockies would be open to trading Carlos Gonzalez and/or Troy Tulowitzki this offseason. The Mets have been linked to CarGo for a while, but the idea of acquiring Tulowitzki was a novel one. The Mets could use both an outfielder or two and a shortstop, and would love to have either Gonzalez or Tulowitzki in their 2014 Opening Day lineup. Would it be wise, however, to make a trade that would no doubt include at least 2 valuable prospects for Tulowitzki? College Sports Town breaks down the players in the possible trade.

Will the Mets try to get Troy Tulowitzki?

Will the Mets try to get Troy Tulowitzki?

Tulowitzki is probably the best shortstop in the league when he is healthy, challenged only by Hanley Ramirez (and that’s pretty much only when Hanley wants to play well). Despite his rib injuries this year, he still has a 5.5 WAR, is second among shortstops in home runs, and is tied for the lead in RBI. He was an All-Star for the third time this year.

There are several problems, however, with Tulowitzki. He is certainly an All-Star talent, but that’s only when he is healthy enough to play. This article from the Denver Post in 2011 tackling the issue of Tulo’s durability noted thatTulowitzki  had already been on the disabled list three times. In each of the past seasons, he has had more serious injuries. For a player guaranteed to make $134 million over the next 7 years, that sort of injury history causes concerns.

Can you place your trust in a guy with this history?

Can you place your trust in a guy with this history

The Mets already have a risky long term investment in David Wright, so how willing are they to take on another one of those types of contracts? Wright will certainly play into the team’s future one way or another, as will Tulowitzki if he is acquired, but would the team be better off sticking with its prospects?

It seems the only two young players in the Mets organization that are off limits are flamethrowers Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. Harper suggests the Mets could offer a package of Travis d’Arnaud, Dillon Gee, and Rafael Montero for Tulowitzki. According to Harper, the Rockies want position players, which is not something the Mets have in surplus. That means the Mets would be forced to trade d’Arnaud, the supposed catcher of the future who has struggled at the big league level so far. If the Rockies are able to acquire a player of d’Arnaud’s potential, they might be okay with accepting pitchers as the rest of the players in a potential deal, according to Harper.

But should the Mets give up their future catcher for Tulowitzki? Sure, d’Arnaud has struggled, but he’s only 24, and Tulo is 28. In addition, some would argue it’s more difficult to find a good catcher than a good shortstop, and even if d’Arnaud’s hitting does not come along, he’s been a pretty good defensive catcher thus far.

The Mets would be more reluctant to give up d’Arnaud if they did not have several catching prospects in addition to him- Kevin Plawecki, who is 22 and batted .294 with a .783 OPS in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Florida league, and Juan Centeno, a 23 year old Puerto Rican who made his major league debut several days ago (he went 2-4 with an RBI). Obviously, neither of them have been hyped as much as d’Arnaud, but they both seem to be fairly good players. Having depth at catcher would make the Mets more likely to give up d’Arnaud.

The trade hinges on three ifs: if the Mets are willing to trade d’Arnaud, if the Rockies are willing to accept an offer principally about d’Arnaud, and if the Mets are willing to invest in a talented but flawed player. He could end up being the centerpiece of an offseason in which the Mets transform into a wild-card fringe team like the Kansas City Royals or the Baltimore Orioles.

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The Sad Story of Daniel Bard

This Sunday Daniel Bard was designated for assignment as the Boston Red Sox attempted to make room for John McDonald and Quintin Berry on the 40-man roster. For the next ten days, any team in baseball will have the opportunity to claim Bard, and it’s extremely likely that there will be a crappy team that is willing to take a flier on Bard (like, say the Mets).

Whoever hits the most batters gets a teddy bear!

This move comes as no surprise considering Bard’s recent struggles. In 16 minor league appearances this season, Bard pitched 15.1 innings and walked 27 batters while only striking out 9. In 1.2 innings of Rookie League ball (the lowest level in which the Red Sox have an affiliate), Bard allowed 2 runs, walked 6 batters, hit a batter, and threw 2 wild pitches. His command and velocity have deserted him, making him a shell of the pitcher he once was. Many Sox fans will look blame the decision to turn Bard into a starter for his demise. But in retrospect, the warning signs were always there that Bard could have a Rick Ankiel-esque meltdown. His inherent wildness, combined with the Red Sox poor handling of him, led to his demise.

Rick Ankiel proved that with enough HGH, any former top pitching prospect who lost the ability to throw strikes can become a mediocre outfielder.

Bard was drafted in the first round of the 2006 draft, 28th overall, out of the University of North Carolina. Before his first season, Baseball America ranked him as the 81st best prospect in baseball. The Sox saw Bard as a starter, and in 2007 he debuted for Greenville in single-A ball. Despite an atrocious 6.42 ERA in 17 starts, Bard was called up to high-A ball, where he made 5 starts for Lancaster, going 0-2 with a 10.12 ERA. Overall, Bard walked 78 batters in 75 innings, along with an astounding 27 wild pitches, while racking up just 47 strikeouts. At that point, Bard was moved to the bullpen, where he started to shine. Flashing an upper 90s fastball with good breaking stuff, Bard excelled the next year, racking up 107 Ks in 77.2 innings, playing for both Greenville and double-A Portland. Perhaps the most promising aspect of Bard’s 2008 season was that he cut his walk total down to just 30. Firmly established as a relief prospect (Baseball America ranked him as the 98th best prospect in all of baseball), Bard was placed on the fast track to the majors, starting the next season in triple-A Pawtucket. After striking out 29 batters in 16 innings and allowing just 2 runs, Bard was called up to the big leagues.

Bard made an immediate impact for the Sox in 2009, striking out 63 batters in 49.1 innings while posting a 3.65 ERA. The next season, he was one of the best relievers in baseball, striking out 76 batters and turning in a 1.93 ERA. But there was a major warning sign that year that the Red Sox did not heed: appearances. Bard pitched in 73 games, meaning that he was pitching nearly every other day. The team should have cut down on his workload to preserve his arm, but instead they continued to overwork him, as Bard made 70 appearances in the Red Sox ill-fated 2011 season. Bard was effective right up until September; in the final month of the season, Bard went 0-4 with a 10.64 ERA. He walked more batters in September than he had the previous three months combined, thus playing a major role in the Sox’s epic choke job.

After a stormy offseason, Bobby Valentine was installed as the new manager. It isn’t entirely clear exactly how much of a role the self-proclaimed inventor of the wrap sandwich played in the decision to turn Bard back into a starter, although it is clear that he played some role. Even at the time, it appeared to be a dumb decision. Bard hadn’t started since 2007, and he had been terrible. Nonetheless, the Sox put him in the rotation. Bard’s velocity dropped drastically, and he never regained it. He went 5-6 with a 6.22 ERA for the year, appearing in 17 games and starting 10. He walked 43 batters and struck out just 38. He was sent to triple-A midway through the year, and he went 3-2 with a 7.03 ERA in 31 appearances for Pawtucket. He also walked 29 batters and hit 10 more.

Mike Cameron actually played for the Red Sox in 2011. He also once said this. And this.

And that’s really all there is to it. In just a few short years, Bard went from one of baseball’s most promising relievers to a burnout. It’s clear now that the Red Sox overworked him, and it was clear at the time that the Red Sox shouldn’t have turned him into a starter. I think that it’s safe to say that the real beginning of Bard’s demise was in September of 2011. He can now join Terry Francona, Theo Epstein, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett in the group whose actions that September (and in Crawford’s case really that whole season) led to their exit from the Red Sox organization. As the Sox enter the stretch run this year, they could use another right-handed arm in the bullpen. I don’t think that there’s a single fan out there who doesn’t wish that Daniel Bard was available to fill that role.

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What Should The Mets do with Ike Davis?

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Is Ike the first baseman of the future for the Mets?

Ike Davis has had a short yet tumultuous career as a member of the New York Mets. For a period of time following his rookie year, it looked as though Davis would anchor first base for the Mets for a while. After his performance these past two years, however, the Mets will have a difficult decision to make this offseason on what to do with this promising-yet-befuddling player.

Ike is only 26 and is signed through 2017, so the Mets have given him many opportunities to prove himself. If Ike continues to improve upon his recent play, it would be difficult for the Mets to get rid of him. If he plays like he did in the first half of this season, however, the Mets might have to look into alternatives. Below is a list of players in the Mets organization that the Mets might consider to replace Ike.

Josh Satin (Age 28)

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When Ike returned from his Pacific Coast League exile, he pushed his best friend Josh Satin out of the lineup. Satin, who had taken over for Ike when he was sent down, has played very well. In 120 plate appearances, he has a slash line of .296/.425/.429, which is much better than Ike’s .205/.325/.317 performance in 317 PA. Since he has played well in replacement of Ike before, the Mets probably would put more confidence in him than any other alternative.

Lucas Duda (Age 27)

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The Dude had a decent start to the season in right field, where he was moved to accommodate Ike at first, fielding adequately and batting .235/.353/.438 in 269 plate appearances. Duda was placed on the DL on June 23, however, with an intercostal strain. With no space at the major league level, he was sent to the PCL after his rehab stint, where he is hitting .282/.446/.423 in 26 games (as of August 7th). Duda is probably in more trouble than Ike when it comes to having a job with the Mets. With the success the Mets have experienced playing a more athletic outfield of Eric Young Jr., Juan Lagares, and Marlon Byrd, it’s unlikely they’ll want to revert to Duda’s plodding play in left. Duda has lots of power and was doing better offensively than Ike, but the timing of his injury might lose him his job with the Mets.

Wilmer Flores (Age 22)

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Flores was  a touted prospect in the Mets organization for a while, but I think he has earned a spot with the team for the future in the six games he has played so far at the major league level. Playing a decent third base, Flores has hit .261/.320/.435 in 25 PA, and he has 1 HR and 9 RBI already. The problem is, there is already an incumbent at third (ya know, David Wright), and he’s pretty darn good. Manager Terry Collins said he’s “most likely he’s going to be on the corner” in the future, which, despite a start this week at second base to see his potential there, means he may be coming after Ike’s job. Although The Mullet might be one of the biggest long term threats to Ike’s job, Ike himself is an example of how rookie seasons can be misleading. Hopefully, Flores will be able to carve out a spot for himself somewhere in the infield- Ike just hopes it’s not at first.

Dominic Smith (Age 18)

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The Mets first pick in this year’s draft, Smith is a power hitting first baseman out of California who is has a .375 slugging percentage and 3 HR with the Gulf Coast Mets of the Rookie League. The Mets selection of Smith seemed to be a direct slight to Ike Davis, who was sent down the following Sunday. Of course, any challenge that Smith poses to Ike is years down the road, but he is probably going to be a bigger long term threat to Davis’ job than Flores.

Some of the alternative players might be better than Ike at certain points, but I feel as though he has a lot of potential still. 2014 will be Ike’s age-27 season, which is the magic number for sluggers to kick their careers into shape. As the Mets look to contend a season or two down the line, they could use Ike in the field (where his glove has never faltered), the clubhouse, where a very friendly Ike is beloved, and, hopefully, the plate. With any luck, the Ike of the second half will be the Ike of the future, and the Ike of the future will be a mainstay for the Mets.

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