With the Mets clearly in need of adding a veteran catcher, I expect to soon hear a lot of rumors connecting them to current Dodgers catcher and soon-to-free-agent Yasmani Grandal.
Similarly, Mets fans and media will spend the next month or two pressuring the team to break the bank for current Dodgers third baseman Manny Machado, who will be the most prized free agent of the winter.
Interestingly, the above players are a hot topic in the baseball world Wednesday, both which should be of particular interest to Mets fans given the potential demand for their services in Queens...
I'm on record saying the Mets should only pursue free agents Jonathan Lucroy or Wilson Ramos to be a starting catcher next season. That said, I have seen some Mets fans argue in favor of Grandal, who has never impressed me with his work behind the plate.
Along those lines, Grandal was booed heavily by L.A. fans in Game 3 after striking out twice with runners on base, which only fueled fire already brewing due to three passed balls.
"Here at home you are doing your best and to get booed is tough," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday. "I know Yasmani is trying and he prepares and it doesn't feel good to get booed, but he's going to go out there and prepare again."
(Photo: Richard Mackson, USA TODAY Sports)
Nevertheless, Grandal was benched Tuesday for Game 4 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium, prior to which he was batting just .136 with 10 strikeouts in 22 post-season at-bats.
To be fair, Grandal repeatedly gets high praise for his work helping pitchers prepare for that day's game. That said, while he's also been an impressive hitter during his career, he's consistently making mistakes and creating problems for his staff behind the plate... just ask Clayton Kershaw, who was on the mound in Game 1 when Grandal made two costly errors.
"I think it's driving you guys more nuts than it's driving me," Grandal told reporters Tuesday when asked about his recent collection of mistakes behind the plate.
I shudder to think how New York media and Mets fans would react had he made this statement tied 2-2 in a National League Championship series.
The team currently has Kevin Plawecki and Tomas Nido under control as possible every-day catchers for next season. Travis d'Arnaud is not expected back from Tommy John surgery until late summer and is a non-tender candidate.
Though I do think Plawecki has the talent to be at least an average every-day catcher, in an ideal world he is a backup to a more seasoned, more respected and accomplished catcher who will provide a stable presence behind the plate. This is Ramos. This is Lucroy. This is not Grandal.
Meanwhile, Machado, who is rumored to be seeking a $300 million contract this winter, made headlines after not running out a ground ball in Game 3 before kicking Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar in the ankle after hustling to first base in Game 4.
"It's a dirty play by a dirty player," Brewers OF Christian Yelich said after the game.
Machado made two similarly aggressive, controversial slides the night before...
Machado clearly could have avoided Aguilar, but he didn't.
Why? Yelich is right, Machado plays dirty and overly aggressive... and you know what, I like it. Frankly, it's one of the main reasons why I want the Mets to give up the moon for him to wear their uniform.
"Obviously I'm not going to change," Machado later told the Athletic, which is exactly what I like to hear.
In the middle of a crucial postseason game, as a result of his "kick," Aguilar and Machado exchanged words and essentially starred at each other like bulls before turning away and returning to their respective dugouts after the benches emptied.
"If that's dirty, that's dirty," Machado later told reporters. "I play baseball. I try to go out there and win for my team. If that's their comments, that's their comments. I can't do nothing about that."
It has been 11 years since the Mets had an on-field fight with an opposing team. I'm not suggesting that their lack of fighting and lack of winning are directly connected. However, brawling is a sign of passion, loyalty and team unity. This isn't opinion. It's essentially what every former player has told me when I ask about the subject, including men that played for the 1986, 2000 and 2006 Mets.
The Machado we watched on field in Game 4 would bring a type of cockiness and swagger that hasn't been part of Mets culture for a long, long time. It's something that can be divisive in down times and if the player is struggling. However, when it emanates from an MVP candidate on a winning team, it can absolutely help bond a team and fanbase, as well as provide a helluva fun show to watch from the stands and on TV.
This isn't war. It's baseball. It's a game. And drama and tension in sports is part of what makes it fun. Machado is not a choir boy, he admits it. But, then again, I've always enjoyed Mets baseball the most when the team is either an obvious underdog (see 1973, 1999, 2000, 2015) or an unabashed favorite, dominating their opponents and basically kicking ass (see 1986, 1988, 2006).
As the best hitter on the team (and best hitter in New York), Machado's wild, cocky, lightning-rod style of play would also draw attention away from the team's still-developing youngsters, such as Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario and eventually Peter Alonso and Andres Gimenez.
The team's two biggest stars during the past five years have been David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes, both of whom are mostly quiet guys that have barely played since getting the team to the World Series in 2015.
Rosario and Alonso have the talent and voice to attract attention in a way no one else can on the current roster. But, Rosario is still finding himself and Alonso has yet to have a big-league at-bat.
Machado, however, is not just an outstanding talent capable of winning an MVP, he's also still just 26 years and with a dominant presence and magnet for attention that can help set the tone for his entire team.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!