I said it last week and it bears repeating, but I’m tipping my cap to manager Mickey Callaway for giving us one of the most productive, focused, and drama-free spring training camps in recent New York Mets history.
Right from day one, Callaway set the tone for Mets camp by stressing that everyone will be held accountable and that the ultimate goal would be choosing the best 25 players that would give the team the best chance to win.
Following the final game of the spring on Sunday, Callaway announced that infielder/outfielder Phillip Evans had made the team along with right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame. Both of these player’s had a dark horse’s chance of making the team when camp began, but due to their hard work and overall production, now find themselves on the team’s opening day roster.
Good for Evans and Rhame, and good for the new Mets skipper for following through on his commitment to rewarding effort and hard work, while holding players accountable from beginning to end at his first spring training camp as a major league manager. Well done, Mickey.
It was refreshing to take in an entire spring training this year, without any drama from the team or its players. There were no fancy sports cars or reporting on horseback, there were no off-the-field controversies, there were no player suspensions for PEDs or domestic violence, and for the first time in nearly a decade, the Mets enter the season with reasonably good health.
I have no idea what to expect from Mickey Callaway now that each game will matter, but so far so good. The new charismatic leader of the Mets flexed his ability to lead by example and being an effective communicator, a quality that had been sorely lacking at times during the Terry Collins era.
So here we are only three days before Opening Day and I can hardly contain my excitement and enthusiasm. The Mets may have wrapped up their Grapefruit League season with a lackluster 10-18-3 overall record, but they ended with five wins in their final eight games and enter the regular season on a high note.
The starting rotation is now set with Noah Syndergaard getting the start on opening day, followed by Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, and Seth Lugo in that order. While I expected Syndergaard and deGrom to exceed expectations this spring, I had no idea what we were going to get from everyone else.
Congratulations to Matt Harvey for turning in a solid overall effort, to Steven Matz for finishing strong after a dismal start to his spring, and a super-sized round of applause for Seth Lugo who worked his ass off and won a spot on the rotation for his effort – if only until Jason Vargas returns from the DL.
In addition to strong springs by Rhame, Evans and all five players in our starting rotation, there were a few players whose strong performances may have flown under the radar. Chief among them may be shortstop Amed Rosario, who turned in a .304/.347/.543 batting line while dazzling in the field. If Rosario could learn to take a few more walks this season, he could end up being a premier leadoff option for the Mets over the next 6-7 years. Good job, kid…
And what about 24-year old Brandon Nimmo, who smiled his way to an incredible .306/.381/.613 batting line that included five doubles, three homers, two triples, and a team-leading 11 RBI and 12 runs scored. I love this kid and look for him to work his way into an everyday outfield spot at some point this season. Rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Not to be outdone, the enigmatic Wilmer Flores made some noise this spring, so much so that he had Mickey Callaway announcing that he would be getting plenty of playing time against right-handed pitching and that Flores would be an integral part of the team’s offense in 2018. That’s music to my ears.
Perhaps the most important positive sign, as far as the Mets’ playoff chances are concerned, is how incredibly powerful Yoenis Cespedes looked after dealing with a minor wrist issue. The most important piece in the team’s offense, Cespedes displayed his MVP-ish form, walloping six home runs in just 34 at-bats while wielding a potent .324 average and an unbelievable .882 slugging percentage and 1.251 OPS.
So many great storylines this spring, and maybe none more important than the good news on the injury front, as in not one major significant injury to report and the encouraging news that Michael Conforto is way ahead of schedule and could return to the lineup in as little as two weeks.
So yes, I’m pretty ramped up for the Mets this season and I’m very excited for a totally legit playoff run in 2018. Especially with the comforting feeling that Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland are holding players accountable and following through on their pledge of bringing the best 25 players North. We now have a manager who says what he means and means what he says… Now, Let’s Play Ball…