The Metropolitan: Put one in the books
Our first game recap! Plus: Sandy speaks
Today we’ll talk about Sandy Alderson’s press conference and the truth about Spring Training results, but we start with our first recap of the season.
⏰ Recap the game in 60(ish) seconds…
⚾️ PLAY BALL: The Mets opened their Grapefruit League schedule with a 2-0 loss to the Miami Marlins in a 7-inning game on Monday. Believe it or not, fans were in the stands, as 1,238 watched the game in person.
🤩 LINDOR: New York’s new shortstop went 0-2 in his spring debut, while scooping up a groundball in the field. You can watch his first at-bat below.
🔥 GAS: The Mets got to see some of the heat they added over the offseason as right-hander Sean Reid-Foley (acquired in the Matz deal) nearly touched 99 MPH and worked an efficient inning, while side-armer Trevor Hildenberger cranked it up to 102.9 MPH during his one-inning appearance that yielded two walks and three strikeouts.
🏎 AGGRESSIVE: Both Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Pillar were thrown out on the basepaths, but manager Luis Rojas felt it was “a good tone-setter as far as playing hard.”
🔝 LEADING OFF: Rojas indicated that Nimmo will probably be the team’s primary leadoff hitter this season. He responded by going 2-3 at the plate.
⓸⓵ HONORED: Before the game, the Mets announced they will honor the late, great Tom Seaver by wearing a “41” tribute patch on their uniforms during the season. The Hall-of-Famer passed away on August 31, 2020 at the age of 75. He remains the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, strikeouts, shutouts, ERA, complete games, and starts.
In other news…
🍎 Team president Sandy Alderson addressed the media before the team’s first spring game. He talked about their offseason acquisitions, pursuits, and changes to their hiring practices.
🙋♀️ HIRING: “There are going to be situations that hopefully we’ll be able to uncover as a result of reaching out to different constituencies, women and others, outside of a single organization,” Alderson said via Zoom. “We just have to be mindful in each of these cases. We have to be broader in understanding who these people are and what their backgrounds may be.”
⚾️ TREVOR BAUER: “Look, we weren’t being naïve about it in the sense that we can turn this guy around on a dime and turn him into something he wasn’t before,” Alderson said of the team’s interest in Bauer. “But I did think we could manage it as long as we were communicating with him and being attuned to what was going on. We felt we could manage it. It’s possible we wouldn’t have been able to. At this point, we don’t have to worry about it.”
💰 NEGOTIATION: In answering a question about their offseason pursuit of George Springer, Alderson said the team didn’t want to commit more than five years to the free agent outfielder, and if they had, it could have impacted their ability to extend Michael Conforto.
ODD: While it’s perfectly reasonable to be uncomfortable with the overall value of Springer’s contract, by noting the term of the deal, it makes it sound like a $5 million difference in AAV (over four of the seasons) could have prevented the team from re-signing Conforto.
OUT OF MONEY: While Alderson noted, “at some point, even Steve Cohen runs out of money,” he didn’t save himself any negotiation points with Conforto by essentially admitting the team passed on Springer because they want to keep their home-grown right fielder, and thus, a game of chicken with Conforto’s super-agent Scott Boras carries even higher stakes.
🗣 TALK SOON: As for extension talks with Conforto and Francisco Lindor, Alderson said, “I think those conversations will start relatively soon in both cases.”
✍️ THOR: Of course, there’s also the pending free agency of starter Noah Syndergaard. Alderson told reporters, “Noah’s contract expires at the end of the year. It would be natural for us to talk about the possibilities, the options. We will do that.”
📚 March 2, 1989: At a photo session, Mets' outfielder Darryl Strawberry throws a punch at Keith Hernandez, the team's first baseman. The scuffle started over comments about salaries and results, with Straw walking out of camp.
What does March predict?
🧓 by Jeffrey Bellone
It is common practice for regional networks to wait until the first home game to start televising Spring Training games — but after an offseason that ushered in a new owner and superstar player, SNY found itself scurrying to locate a camera behind home plate in Jupiter, Florida yesterday so it could broadcast the top of the first inning against the Marlins.
It’s March 1st, and Mets fans couldn’t wait another day to see their favorite baseball team play. But once the excitement of catching the first glimpse of that iconic blue and orange uniform wears off, everyone is reminded it’s only Spring Training. There are still four weeks to go until games start to matter in the standings.
Which brings us to the annual question of whether Grapefruit League games provide any indication of future success. In other words, does it matter if the Mets finish 6-24 instead of 24-6, to use an extreme example?
It turns out, it actually could, and perhaps more so than you might have thought. Looking at Spring Training records compared to regular season records between 1984 to 2019, William Juliano of The Captain’s Blog found extreme preseason outcomes can be quite predictive:
Since 1984, having a horrible spring has generally meant a losing regular season. Nearly 75% of teams with a winning percentage below 30% in March ended up finishing the regular season below .500. Meanwhile, on the positive end, though the relationship hasn’t been as strong, a still sizeable 65% of teams that were successful in 70% of their spring training games have gone to a winning regular season.
For the teams who finish in the middle of the pack, as you might have guessed, there is less of a pattern in terms of how they perform in the regular season. And this part is key:
Playing between .300 and .600 in spring training has proven to have little predictive value as the relative distribution of regular season records has been somewhat even.
So in a perfect world, you would kick ass in March, continue that trend into the season, and let it carry you all the way to the playoffs. And this has been the path of several clubs, as 65% of playoff teams teams had a winning record in Spring Training, according to Juliano’s research; and only 12% reached the postseason when they won less than 40% of their exhibition affairs.
How have the Mets performed? As my dad instantly reminded me after yesterday’s 2-0 loss, they usually stink this time of year. The Mets haven’t had a winning Spring Training record since 2015—conveniently, the year they went to the World Series.
Overall, the Mets have played in the middle range, the gray area that isn’t as predictive. But it is interesting to see how often they have turned their Florida results in the opposite direction: In nine of the previous 15 seasons, they have outperformed their Spring Training winning percentage; half of their six winning campaigns in that time have started with sub-par springs; and with the exception of 2006, every .500 or better Grapefruit finish has failed to lead to the same level of success in the regular season.
If you stop paying attention to exhibition games after the first few, I get it (plus, you subscribe to this newsletter, so we can help you sound smart even when you don’t watch the games). But if you’re looking for a tell about the upcoming season, you should either hope they finish somewhere in the middle, or pray they don’t sh*t the bed. Or since they are the Mets, throw your hands in the air, because — chances are — they will follow their own trend, anyway.
In other words, relish the fact that some sort of baseball is back to enjoy — and don’t worry about the results too much.
Unless they get really bad.
⚾️ Trevor Bauer pitched two scoreless innings and struck out two batters in his Cactus League debut for the Dodgers.
⚾️ Major League Baseball will bring back in-game video for players this season, something several slumping players like Christian Yelich said they missed in 2020.
⚾️ The Atlanta Braves (owned by Liberty Media) reported revenues fell by $298 million last year.
🔗 Francisco Lindor getting to know the Cohen family, by Ken Davidoff, NY Post: “Lindor has gotten to know the heads of the home, new Mets owner Steve Cohen and his wife Alex. Said the Puerto Rico native Lindor: ‘Alex [who is of Puerto Rican descent], our backgrounds are pretty similar. She’s a great woman, powerful woman, great heart…I’m playing for his organization. I’ve got to represent the Cohen family the right way and represent the Mets the right way.’”
🔗 Trevor Bauer happy with Dodgers, and Mets happy without Bauer, by Bob “Mets have a deal for Bauer” Nightengale, USA Today: “[As] Sandy Alderson Alderson wondered aloud if perhaps [Bauer] could have been a problem in New York…The Dodgers, who limited Bauer’s questions to “baseball-only’’ after his outing, seem unconcerned at the moment. It has been only two weeks, but they’ve been impressed by his interactions in the clubhouse and with the coaching staff.”
🎧 LISTEN: Jake Brown and Nelson Figueroa interview Mets great Mookie Wilson.
And we leave you with Francisco Lindor reminding us what baseball is all about…
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