By: Paul DiSclafani
In a span of 10 days, from July 24th to August 2nd, the course of the 2015 season for the Mets and Nationals in the NL East changed dramatically.
In Part 1, we took a look at the events leading up to the season altering decisions made by Mets GM Sandy Alderson and the early results of the promotion of Michael Conforto and the trade for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves.
Day 4 of the 10 days (Monday, 7/27) saw the curious news that Alderson had made a trade for former Oakland closer Tyler Clippard. This way off the radar move was welcomed, but certainly not necessary. The Mets had closer Jeurys Familia and recently reinstated Jenrry Mejia for the back-end of the bullpen and their immediate need was a bat – a big bat.
With the last place Padres (47-53) coming to Citi for three games, the Mets were going to see a team that was at least an inept as they were at the plate. These three games were huge for the Mets as they try to keep treading water in the NL East. But looming on the horizon was a three game weekend series with the First Place Nationals.
DAY 5: Tuesday, July 28:
Suddenly, the acquisition of Tyler Clippard made all the sense in the world. MLB announced that closer Jennry Mejia was being suspended for a second time for PED use, this time a 162 game suspension. Mejia had appeared in just 7 games since his return from the original 80 game suspension. The players and fans were devastated. Although Mejia was going to be ineligible for the 2015 postseason, he was going to be available to solidify the late innings during the pennant race over the next 60 days. Now he was gone. Poof. The Mets still had starting pitching that was dominating, but they couldn’t score runs.
Starting a 3-game series against the equally anemic Padres, Noah Syndergaard retires the first 18 Padres and the Mets bats awaken again as Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda each hit 2-run homer runs in a 4-0 win, the third straight for the new look Mets. The Nats lose to the Marlins in Miami and their lead in the NL East is down to 1 game.
But the news in Washington wasn’t about the loss. The Nats had pulled off a deal to acquire one of the jewels of the available trade deadline players, All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Fire-Sale Phillies. Papelbon had saved 17 games for the Phillies, half of their wins through 98 games so far. His addition to an already steady bullpen in Washington was not good news for the Mets, who are still looking for that big bat.
In the Nationals locker room, current closer Drew Storen, who had 29 saves in 31 chances at that point, wasn’t happy when he found out he lost his position as the closer. “All I’m going to say is that I’m aware of the move and I’m going to leave it at that and no comment for now.”
DAY 6: Wednesday, July 29:
In a day that may go down in infamy in Mets History, the 7-3 loss to the Padres became a footnote to the events that were unfolding during the game.
With the Mets trailing 6-1 midway through the game that was started by Bartolo Colon, reports began to surface that Alderson had agreed to a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for former Mets top prospect, outfielder Carlos Gomez. Gomez was part of the trade with Minnesota that brought pitcher Johan Santana to New York. The deal indicated that the Mets would send infielder Wilmer Flores and disabled pitcher Zack Wheeler to the Brewers, pending physicals. The Mets TV booth was speculating that it may take time for the medical records of Wheeler, who had not even begun his rehab from April Tommy John surgery, to be reviewed. But they were questioning why Flores was still in the game. Shouldn’t a traded player be removed from the game to avoid an injury?
With social media buzzing, the fans in the stands knew what was going on as “sources” were reporting that the trade was official and the Brewers, on a plane home from their road trip, were posting pictures saying goodbye to Gomez. But curiously, Terry Collins sent Flores up for his at bat in the seventh inning.
The 24 year-old Flores, who up to this point in the season had been much maligned as a poor defensive shortstop that was in the lineup for his bat, was hitting just .249. But the fans were applauding the unaware Flores as he stepped to the plate. He got a standing ovation after grounding out to short and trudged to the dugout with a very perplexed look on his face.
In the dugout, when questioning Collins what he should do, he was told to go out and field his position until someone tells him something different. Fans were wishing him good luck in Milwaukee and shouting encouragement to him as he went out to play SS in the eighth inning.
The emotional Flores, who joined the Mets as an 18-year old from Venezuela, was noticeably shaken standing at his position and could not control his emotions as the finality of the moment began to hit him. He was no longer a part of the Mets.
It wasn’t until after the game that Alderson confirmed the trade was not completed because the Mets medical staff had concerns about Gomez and they nixed the trade.
Not only did the Mets bungle this by not immediately coming out and squashing the “rumor”, but they still don’t have the big bat they need. The loss, combined with a Nationals win, dropped the Mets two games back.
DAY 7: Thursday, July 30
Just over 24 hours remain with the non-waiver trading deadline looming at 4pm tomorrow as the Mets play a day game against the Padres. After the Mets passed on Gomez, the Brewers immediately traded him to Houston and social media was buzzing again, wondering how Gomez’ medical condition could pass muster with the Astros medical staff but not the Mets.
Although all the media and fans could talk about was Wilmer Flores’ emotional breakdown on the field, the media found out that the other player involved in the deal, rehabbing pitcher Zach Wheeler, called Sandy Alderson from Florida to passionately let him know that he did not want to be part of any trade in the next 24 hours. He wanted to remain a Met. “I understand that Sandy has a job to do to make this team as good as he can,” Wheeler said, “But I’ve been with this organization through some of the growing pains. I want to be part of it. It’s definitely going to be fun to play here.”
Now talks were heating up regarding the Padres Justin Upton and the Reds Jay Bruce coming to the Mets. To a fan base starving for an offensive force, Upton seemed like a good idea after he hit a game winning, three run home run against Familia in a game the Mets led at one point, 7-1. Wouldn’t Upton look good in Orange and Blue?
In a bizarre turn of events, Familia got the first two outs in the ninth inning with the Mets ahead 7-5. After a 44-minute rain delay, Familia came back out and got the first two strikes on the Padres Derrick Norris before he got his fifth hit of the game. Matt Kemp then singled with the rain beginning to fall again, bringing up Upton, who hit the first pitch through what was now a driving rain, to give the Padres an improbable 8-7 lead before another rain delay. It took almost three hours for the game to resume, but only five minutes for the Mets to go down meekly in front of just a few hundred wet, diehard fans as they lost the series to the lowly Padres.
Even worse was that the Nationals won again in sunny Miami, with new closer Papelbon getting his first save in a 1-0 win. The Nationals, getting healthier and stronger, are now heading north for a weekend series against the Mets with a three game lead.
Emotional players breaking down on the field, fans beginning to panic and calling for the heads of management if they don’t make a deal for a bat and a sleeping giant in Washington coming to town. It’s now less than 24 hours before the trading deadline expires and with it, the hopes of the 2015 season for the New York Mets. Anybody got a Bat Signal?