A messy loss for the Mets, and some observations from week 1 in Spring Training
The Mets need to cleanup their act on the field, but their position player prospects are showing their promise in the Grapefruit League
What’s Up with the Mets? 🌴
The Mets allowed eight runs in the third inning as part of a messy 11-6 loss to the Nationals on Friday (Box)
Jeff McNeil drove in a pair of runs and José Peraza hit a two-run home run to highlight the offense
Luis Guillorme committed two errors behind Max Scherzer, who started and allowed seven runs - none of them earned - over 2.2 IP
Ronny Mauricio entered for Guillorme at shortstop and logged another hit to raise his spring average to .444
Francisco Álvarez entered the game for Tomás Nido behind the plate - it was his first defensive appearance of the spring
The Mets first team-bonding event included a talent show and a Karaoke event (New York Post)
Scherzer plans to call his own pitches with the PitchCom device this season (New York Post)
Today’s Game 🦩
Game 9️⃣ of 3️⃣0️⃣
Match-up: Mets vs. Marlins
Where: Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium — Jupiter, FL
Starters: RHP Justin Verlander vs. LHP Jesus Luzardo
When: 1:10 PM EDT
Where to Watch: Bally Sports South Florida/MLB.tv
Early observations of the Mets at spring training ✍🏻
It’s still early - there are about three weeks left of Grapefruit League games before the Mets break camp and head to Miami to open the season against the Marlins on March 31.
Here are some observations and opinions of the club through the first week of game action:
Business as usual
Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter specifically are running a very business-like camp. There is an order of operations and a script they have the club following on a daily basis, and there isn’t a lot of hoopla surrounding the team on the back fields, unlike in years past under the previous owner.
Yes, there are guest instructors such as David Wright, Darryl Strawberry, and Edgardo Alfonzo currently on campus for the Mets, but there’s a certain, serious aura over the Mets as one walks the back fields at Clover Park these days. That’s a good thing - there are no distractions, just baseball and the work on the little things the players need to do in order to get ready for when the bell rings in a few weeks.
Make no mistake - the players are having fun back there. They’re all smiles, but there just seems to be a central focus that didn’t exist in previous camps.
The WBC participants appear season-ready
Things have clicked already for Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor specifically over the first week of games as they prepare to depart Port St. Lucie for the World Baseball Classic. They appear locked in at the plate and are showing an extra dab of energy to get themselves ramped up for the tournament, and have played very well overall in the first week of games.
Hopefully it isn’t too much too soon for them - it’s an area of concern Buck Showalter has been very public about. Yes, they workout all winter, they hit, take grounders and pop ups, and do everything they’re supposed to do to keep their skills up ahead of camp opening. But skill maintenance is always different than game and competition mode both physically and emotionally, so all of this has to be managed for all players participating in the tournament this month.
The Mets have to cleanup their act
There is a new playing surface down at Clover Park this year. So, maybe that has to do with some of the sloppy play by the Mets in the first week of camp.
But, not all of it, as they’ve made some ugly mistakes in Jupiter as well as West Palm Beach.
And Mets manager Buck Showalter has made some comments in his post-game remarks which suggest he isn’t particularly happy with the club’s play over the first week of camp.
The Mets have committed eight errors in their first eight Grapefruit League games, and there have been some plays not made that don’t show up in the box score, either. Yes, it’s early, these aren’t major league playing surfaces and I know, it’s spring training and the results don’t matter.
But, the process does matter - that’s the point of these games. So, hopefully the Mets are able to clean up their act going forward.
Their big prospects can hit, but where are they going to play?
Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio, and Mark Vientos specifically are collectively off to impressive starts this spring. They’re showing growth and maturity offensively, which has helped mold their farm system into one of the top shelf systems in the game.
Specifically, Mauricio is making the most noise among these three prospects with his bat. He has grown into his frame, is much bigger and stronger than he was at the end of the 2022 season, and is giving the Mets something to seriously consider as the 2023 season unfolds.
The problem of course is figuring out where these three players are going to land on the field. Even if Eduardo Escobar is removed from the equation, only one of the three can be the everyday third baseman long-term, which means the other two either find other positions, or find other clubs.
After watching all three of them play defensively, Vientos has appeared the weakest defensively. The Mets have had him in both corner infield spots, and he has been shaky at third while showing inexperience at first. So, the Mets may have a more complex problem to solve with him than they do with Mauricio and Baty.
Mauricio has looked very agile at shortstop, for what its worth. There’s no chance he becomes their everyday shortstop of course, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a long-term formula with Mauricio at third and Baty in left. That would require both to play those positions regular and be evaluated in those roles, so time will tell how this all plays out.
Then there’s Francisco Álvarez, who has incredible bat speed and path to the ball. But again, it’s going to be about his defense long-term, getting him reps with big league pitchers and seeing how he responds and performs.
The pitch clock is the most impactful change to the rules
It really is amazing. The games are not only faster and more engaging, but the clock has added so many elements of intrigue to the game. And, it’s only March 4!
If the pitch clock is used in its most organic form, no longer is there the adjusting of the batting gloves, the cup, the walks outside the batters box, and so on and so forth for the batter. For the pitcher, there’s no more walking around the mound, adjusting of the hat, staring up into the sky, the stepping off and things like that. This alone has sped up each sequence, sped up innings, and sped up games.
Even with yesterday’s ugly, offensive-driven game between the Mets and Nationals, the game lasted two hours and 23 minutes, and their games are lasting under two hours and 40 minutes.
Some are arguing that less baseball is bad, as it’s less time in the stadium, less time to be able to go to the bathroom or be at the concession stand or souvenir shop. And perhaps some of the owners will be able to prove that less time in the ballpark means less in-stadium revenue. But in the end, the pitch clock has effectively restored what the game used to be for our parents and grandparents.
Recall - games at Shea Stadium used to start regularly at 8 PM, and I’ve never met a single person who experienced those 8 PM games in the 1960s who said those games lasted too long.
So, the institution of the pitch clock may help restore the game to it’s purest form, and therefore become more entertaining.
But then there’s the manipulation of the pitch clock, which is what Max Scherzer is attempting to do during some of his sequences. Yesterday, he baited a hitter into using his only time out of his at-bat, restarted the pitch clock and then quick-pitched him immediately. So, we will see how that chess game evolves over time.
Around the League 🚩
The Padres are interested in pursuing a long-term extension with star OF Juan Soto (New York Post)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is experiencing knee discomfort (Boston Globe)
Andrew Painter - the Phillies best pitching prospect - is undergoing testing on his elbow (Philadelphia Inquirer)
The Rockies will probably be moving Ryan McMahon to second base after they lost Brendan Rodgers to a season-ending shoulder injury (New York Post)
The WBC is taking the focus away from the players. It should NOT be allowed at this time of year and should be a month earlier so all the MLB players can focus on getting ready for the season and the front office, manager and us, the fans, don't have to worry about them getting hurt in the WBC.