With nearly a full season complete and the benefit of hindsight, what grade does Brodie Van Wagenen deserve for the New York Mets bullpen he built?
To say the New York Mets bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster this season would not even come close to the degree of frustration and heartbreak that their fans have suffered from late-inning meltdowns this season.
Not exactly a fresh take, as this isn’t anything we haven’t heard from Mets fans a thousand times over on WFAN radio and other sports news outlets this year. Through the spring, summer, and now even the fall, identifying the Mets Achilles’ heel has remained close to unanimous, with it, of course, being their unreliable bullpen.
After being given the reins of the front office and surrounding himself with some of the top executives around the league, Brodie Van Wagenen stated in his introductory press conference: “I want to assure all Mets fans, that every person in this organization will be fearless and relentless in our pursuit of greatness.”He told us point blank that he was willing to risk failing in his pursuit of greatness, and – unfortunately – fail he did.
The infamous Diaz/Cano deal blew up in his face rather quickly. Next, the lucrative three-year $30 million contract Jeurys Familia received prior to the start of the season (of which the Mets have reaped none of the benefits from his once filthy sinker) hasn’t paid dividends either. Even their best reliever, Seth Lugo has stumbled from time to time as a result of overuse.
However, in grading Van Wagenen, I have to give him an A for effort. Sure, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and the seemingly countless Triple-A call-ups whose relief appearances have each contributed to the Mets absurd 25 and counting (I seriously hope not) blown saves this season, all share part of the blame for these all-too-numerous late-inning collapses.
Regardless, he tried to make the Mets pen one of their top assets in 2019 by trading for the league’s best closer at the time, signing Familia, Justin Wilson, and Luis Avilán, and then transitioning Lugo into a full-time relief pitcher to bolster an already dynamic group of relief pitchers in their retooled bullpen.
What had been one of the biggest holes for this team in recent years looked to have become a great strength with Brodie Van Wagenen at the helm seemingly overnight.
For that, he gets an A for his effort in adding potential talent to the roster, but a D for their dreadful performances. … If only it was the effort that counted, the Mets would be in the playoffs. But in the Major Leagues, it’s all about results – results in the form of wins.
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Looking at the team’s composition before the start of the season, many felt that, due to the efforts of Van Wagenen and his staff, the Mets had the most balanced bullpen in their division, along with one of the top pens in the entire league.
Anchored by setup man, Jeurys Familia and closer, Edwin Diaz, the Mets pen featured RHP Seth Lugo, recently acquired LHP Justin Wilson, and RHP Robert Gsellman in addition to veterans, LHP Luis Avilán, and RHP Tim Peterson, providing added depth to their middle relief core.
While one may still be justified in saying that he and his new team should have foreseen Familia’s struggles ahead of time, what has happened with Edwin Diaz is something that no one could have seen coming. Moreover, the unexpected losses of Luis Avilán and Justin Wilson early in the season also meant that two impact left-hand relievers would have to be replaced on short notice.
This high grade in effort is, therefore, due in part to how Van Wagenen managed the situation throughout the season. Adding Brad Brach in early August was a sensible decision to make, given the injuries at the time and critical need for bullpen relief.
Also, his decision to replace his freshly hired Bullpen coach, Chuck Hernandez with Ricky Bones while also replacing pitching coach Dave Eiland with Phil Regan was a smart and necessary move that would help improve the team’s collective poor pitching performances moving forward from that early part of this season. And both men have done their jobs well ever since.
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But hindsight is 2020, and for Van Wagenen and his front office team, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and regain control of the reins ownership had entrusted him with to lead this team to success.