Watching an evening of baseball in 110-degree heat feels a lot like stepping into a sauna fully-clothed, locking the door behind you, and wondering just how the hell you’re going to survive for the next three hours. It might be a dry heat, but Las Vegas in June is miserable.
It’s just not nearly as miserable as being a Mets fan.
Two weeks ago, the New York Mets had won six of their last eight before starting a four-game series with the division-leading Washington Nationals. There was a very slim chance, at 30-34, that the Amazins could even their record and turn their playoff odds around in the process. If not in those four games, then maybe over the next month, and surely before the All-Star break.
On June 13th, the Mets’ starting shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera, landed on the ten-day disabled list, and—to this long-suffering fan—it felt like the stars had finally aligned for their number-one minor league prospect, Amed Rosario, to get called up from their Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas 51s and take his place.
He didn’t. And I’ve followed this team long enough to not be surprised by that.
So with visions of .500 baseball, and maybe a run of good luck at the blackjack table, I planned a trip with Joshua Baldwin, Eephus editor and Vegas scribe, to see Rosario play. At the time, it felt like he could be the missing piece to salvage this injury-plagued season.
Unfortunately, just before I arrived for the opening two nights of the 51s homestand against the Salt Lake Bees, the Miserable Mets had dropped three of four to the Nats, been swept in four by the Dodgers, and openly admitted that they were now taking offers for their spare parts. Meanwhile, Rosario was still in Vegas despite the fact that the Mets were finally in the same time-zone as their top farm club and clearly in need of a spark.
So if the Mets weren’t going to call Vegas, I would, in the hopes that a little Triple-A ball might lift my spirits. I made my way to Cashman Field to roast alongside Rosario.
All week long I worried that the series would be cancelled because of the extreme heat wave affecting Las Vegas. I wasn’t quite sure how a baseball game could even be played under those conditions, but I intended to stay hydrated with water and Gatorade from the press box. A wise plan, I thought, until the beer and nuts man hollered at me: “Gatorade? On Dollar Beer Night?” I told him I was working. “I am too,” he said. I guess there are few better reasons to endure a ballgame in an oven, so eventually I relented.
The Pacific Coast League—with its hitter friendly altitudes, ballparks, and weather—has a reputation for inflated batting averages. In this incredibly small sample size of two games, I’ve determined that the Bees are the ’27 Yankees, and the 51s are the 1919-1949 Philadelphia Phillies.
Thursday night, the Bees put up 16 runs on 21 hits. On Friday, it was 7 runs on 15 hits. The Angels could use some of those mini-Mike Trouts for their playoff push. But the reason I came to this minor league ballpark in the desert was to see just one man.
So, who is Amed Rosario? The 21-year-old is in his fourth season with the Mets organization, and his first at the Triple-A level. He was just named to the All-Star Futures Game. In 70-plus games, he’s proven he can get on base with some decent pop (7 HR / SLG: .471); steal a bag or take an extra base with his speed; and play good defense at short.
Over the weekend, Rosario went 3-for-11 with a triple, a walk, a stolen base, and an error. It wasn’t great, but if there’s any credibility left for an eye test, I felt that he certainly passed that. This kid is ready to make an impact, and his confidence is apparent at the plate and in the field.
If you haven’t been following along—and look, I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t—here are a few things the Mets have not done well this year: play with speed and play good defense at short.
They are a slow and below-average defensive team. If, as they’ve already announced, the competitive portion of the season is over, then right there is a great reason to call Rosario up today and make him the starting shortstop.
Two weeks ago, I had hoped to be in a place to tell you that his call-up would put the Mets in a position to surge. Yet, because of injuries, there are few pitchers left on the team to reliably start a game on the mound; or, if they get lucky enough and grab a lead, to pitch out of relief and notch a save.
Sandy Alderson, the Mets general manager, has infamously quipped that the reason he has yet to make the move for Rosario is that he can’t pitch. Funny man. It’s too bad that his argument holds no water, considering the team is currently carrying three other Vegas infield alumni to warm their benches.
If the hype is to be believed—and I believe it—Rosario is a cornerstone of this team’s future. That alone is justification for him to start cutting his teeth with Major League at-bats and playing every day at short. You know, like other bad teams do with their best young prospects.
As for the rest of the gang, there doesn’t appear to be much hope left in Vegas. The 51s pitching staff (now depleted because of their parent club’s injury woes) gave up 30 runs over four days, and solidified their grasp on last place in the Pacific Southern division.
No one man can save the Mets right now. Not Amed Rosario, not Terry Collins, not Sandy Alderson. (Although Sandy could start by firing Collins, like he should have done at the end of last season. #FireCollins.) When Rosario undoubtedly makes the 40-man roster this fall, hopefully the team will have been scraped of its excess fat (Bruce, Cabrera, Granderson, and Reyes) and will have put a smart plan in place for 2018. Just kidding, I know that won’t happen.
Fortunes are won and lost in Vegas, and the old inevitably eventually gets replaced by a Cirque du Soleil. But if you find yourself there in the summer, the 51s do have a few good things going for them. Thursday dollar beer night is a godsend. They have a weird mascot, who hopefully gets a water break every five minutes. The seats have decent leg room, and the ones back behind home even have misters overhead.
The 51s probably won’t win, but Cashman Field is an excellent place to pass a Vegas evening, even in the extreme heat.