Brandon Nimmo has arrived and it’s time for his doubters, including myself, to acknowledge his blossoming stardom.
It’s fitting that Brandon Nimmo would find success at Coors Field. It’s the very place that inspired his love for baseball. The 25-year-old from Cheyenne, Wyoming grew up idolizing Todd Helton. After his offensive explosion in Colorado last night, it seems like everything has finally come full circle.
On Monday night, the New York Mets defeated the Colorado Rockies by a score of 12-2. Jacob deGrom delivered yet another impressive outing in his 15th start of the season, allowing one earned run in eight innings pitched. However, the real story of Monday’s game is the aforementioned Nimmo, who exploded with two home runs (one of the inside-the-park variety), two singles, and a career-high four RBI.
Coming off undoubtedly his best game of the season, Brandon Nimmo continues to emerge as a star talent. As MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reported, Nimmo’s two home runs last night places him in elite company. There are currently five players in the MLB with at least 12 home runs and an OPS north of 1.000 — Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Nimmo. Not a bad group to find yourself among.
In the past, the perception of Nimmo has been a polarizing topic among Mets fans. I am embarrassed to say that I was one of his many doubters. As Nimmo’s stardom continues to materialize, now is the time for me to own up for my mistakes and formally apologize. Enclosed you will find an apology letter to Nimmo himself. Hopefully, he can find it in his heart to forgive me.
I am sorry for criticizing the Mets for drafting you back in 2011. Forgive me, but I have always been skeptical of drafting high school players that early in the draft. To me, they have felt more like lottery tickets than sure things. But to make matters worse, I was further jaded by the fact that you came from a place that did not offer high school baseball. I’m not sure why that bothered me so much considering you were a dominant American Legion player. Maybe it’s because high school baseball is such an integral part of the culture where I’m from. Nevertheless, Baseball America had you ranked at 35 among their top fifty prospects and the Mets opted to take you using the thirteenth overall pick. It felt like a reach at the time, but the draft is a crapshoot anyway. It’s easy to look back and second-guess picks.
I am sorry for writing you off after you struggled during your first stint in the major leagues. In 2016, you joined the Mets on June 25 to replace a struggling Michael Conforto. The next day you debuted against Atlanta but faltered to a 0-4 day. After bouncing back and forth between Queens and Triple-A Las Vegas, you finished 2016 with a grand total of 73 at-bats. Those numbers did not turn any heads — a .274/.338/.329 slash line with one home run and six RBI. But what many people, including myself, are guilty of is failing to recognize the subtle adjustments you made that allowed you to start to find success at the big league level.
The 2017 season was a time where you still had not cemented a place on the major league roster. A hamstring injury suffered during the World Baseball Classic and a partially collapsed lung would throw a major wrench in your path to becoming an established big leaguer. When all was said and done, you finished 2017 with 177 at-bats in 69 games. Five home runs and 21 RBI were encouraging, but the real indicator came in the form of a 41 point rise in on-base percentage. This is what I failed to realize. That monumental increase was not the product of luck or a hot streak, but rather evidence that you were commanding the strike zone more effectively. Patience is such a valuable tool at the MLB level and 2017 served as a platform for you to demonstrate your improved pitch recognition, plate discipline, and ability to draw walks at a much higher rate.
I am sorry for advocating for the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen this past offseason. The rumored deal involved you as the centerpiece to acquiring the 2013 NL MVP. When Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Mets scoffed at the offer, I was furious.
In hindsight, the Mets made the right call. Why acquire an aging veteran with one expensive year left on his deal in exchange for a budding superstar who is under control for the next five seasons? Putting aside the contractual ramifications, you have actually been twice as valuable as McCutchen in 2018. Per Baseball-Reference, McCutchen has accumulated a 1.2 WAR in 305 plate appearances, while you have produced a WAR of 2.4 in only 210 trips to the plate. We dodged a major bullet there.
I am sorry for campaigning for the return of Jay Bruce. As one friend of mine never fails to point out (see the last sentence of this paragraph), Bruce’s return to Flushing was a serious miscalculation. Hungry for another proven major league bat, Sandy Alderson opted to bring back the left-handed slugger on a three-year, $39 million deal. I was very much in favor of this as Bruce was arguably the Mets’ best hitter in 2017 up until the moment he was shipped off to Cleveland last August.
Boy was I wrong. The Jay Bruce we’ve seen in 2018 is merely a shell of himself — a far cry from the player that blasted 29 home runs and drove in 75 RBI in 103 games last season. Through 212 at-bats, Bruce has posted a line of .212/.292/.321 with a paltry three home runs and 17 RBI. You, on the other hand, have done nothing but excel at the dish, slashing .287/.410/.603 with 12 home runs and 22 RBI. In nine fewer games than last season, you have already more than doubled your home run total and surpassed your RBI mark. The right field job should have been yours from day one.
It was a fool’s errand to bring back Bruce and what is even remarkable is how people like me actually continued to defend him through the month of May. My good friend Kevin Russell summed up the Bruce/Nimmo debacle best by saying, “It’s pathetic that Nimmo has to play like a top-five hitter in baseball for the Mets to consider the idea of benching Jay Bruce.”
Last, but certainly not least, I am sorry for not buying into your personality and positive attitude that has endeared you to this fanbase from the get-go. However, I honestly feel that any attempt to describe such would not do you any justice. Therefore, I turned to the pre-eminent Brandon Nimmo supporter on Mets Twitter, Jenna Jacobs. I do not think anyone could have done a better job at describing what you mean to Mets fans in such an eloquent and succinct manner. Here’s what she had to say:
“While Brandon Nimmo is steadily emerging amongst the elite company of players like Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and even Mike Trout, he is also garnering a reputation as a fan favorite. The unadulterated, genuine enthusiasm that he exhibits daily has endeared him to many, including myself. I recall his first hit against the Washington Nationals on June 27, 2016 — he dumped a single into right-center and pointed emphatically at the sky upon reaching first base, his effervescent smile on display in high-definition. Such childlike spirit is coupled with an old-school philosophy that values making the most of every single opportunity. This combination manifests itself each time Nimmo takes a base on balls; rather than walk to first base, he bursts into a full sprint. In an interview with MLB Network, he cites his play as a product of extreme gratitude: ‘Even though it is a business and we want to win, I just see how fortunate I am to be able to accomplish a childhood dream.’ At a time when issues of archaism and modernity have dominated the league, Brandon Nimmo reminds us that baseball, at its most fundamental level, is a game that is meant to be enjoyed. He has effectively laid out the character blueprint that all athletes should aspire to – equal parts passion and professionalism.”
Before Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the New York Yankees, Sandy Alderson once joked to the New York Post’s Mike Puma, “With Brandon Nimmo in right field you think we need Stanton?” Alderson was ripped on Twitter for the remarks, but as Andrew Battifarano of MiLB.com pointed out; today is June 19 and your OPS dwarfs that of Stanton by just over 200 points.
I cannot wait to see what the future holds for you in a Mets jersey. You’ve already taught all of us a valuable lesson about being grateful for the journey and when the time comes for me to have children, I truly the hope they approach the game as you do.
A Loyal Mets Supporter