Like most MLB teams, the New York Mets believe in planned days off for their position players. It’s a trend in baseball that needs flexibility.
Last Sunday, I was displeased to see the New York Mets do the predictable thing and put together a lineup without its best players. With a chance to win 3 of 4 against the Chicago Cubs, they slimmed their own chances by sitting Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil.
Up against lefty Cole Hamels, who has been the team’s best pitcher this season, the Mets fought for most of the game until the bullpen collapsed. The lineup didn’t have all that much of a direct effect with the end result. However, the attitude of putting the B-team on the field may psychologically put the team at a disadvantage.
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New York isn’t the only team to engage in what has become a trend in baseball: planned days off. Rather than believe in streaks, a hot arm, or simply put the best players you have on the field, the Mets are one of many who now give their players advanced notice when they will sit. I would guess all teams have done it. Soon, all will.
There’s a certain satisfaction in knowing when and when you will not work. I know my weekly work schedule. Why shouldn’t they?
I understand baseball is different in 2019 than it was even five years ago. Players who participate in 162 games per season are a rare breed. Only two Mets, Felix Millan and John Olerud, have ever completed the feat.
For the Mets and everyone else for that matter, the better plan would be to adjust to what happens even mildly.
Last Saturday, the Mets were up against lefty starter Jose Quintana. It was the second straight day game of the series, making it a possible game to sit either Conforto or McNeil. Considering he hasn’t been as productive on the mound as Hamels, it would make some sense to put a reserve on the field as the backup player would be more likely to produce.
Additionally, it would help the team plan ahead to Sunday where they could keep one of their best bats in the lineup and prepare to sit another.
Let’s say the Mets didn’t have the foresight to sit Conforto or McNeil on Saturday—which they didn’t—and the lineup is the same. Why not, when the Mets got off to a big early lead, remove one or both from the game to give him a rest then? All 10 runs were scored by the end of the sixth inning. Three innings off for one of these men could have allowed the other to start fresh on Sunday.
Managers and front offices are putting planned days off in the minds of players. Pitchers are creatures of habit who live with a routine. Position players are becoming the same way. This can be effective. It can also leave players ill-prepared for change.
There are many ways the Mets and other big league teams can tackle days off for players. If the Mets blew the lead on Saturday and the replacement for Conforto or McNeil made an out in a big at-bat, it would have looked bad. However, the lead was so great, it’s one minor change they need to make if it can get nine innings from the man on the following afternoon.
I’m a huge fan of planning ahead. I respect teams thinking what a lineup will look like five days into the future.
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There’s something about adjusting on the fly that’s also imperative to success. This means being available every day for whatever comes.