Somehow, someway, designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach remained on the Mets’ roster for the entire 2023 regular season. It didn’t make much sense. Especially as manager Buck Showalter kept defending the decision. As it turns out, he was covering up for general manager Billy Eppler.
This isn’t surprising. While we all got frustrated with how Showalter kept defending Vogelbach, it’s 2023. A big-league manager doesn’t have full control over the lineup anymore. Many times, they’re simply taking orders from upstairs.
Mike Puma of the New York Post shed light on the situation. Essentially, Showalter didn’t want to keep penciling Vogey into the lineup. But that didn’t matter because Eppler kept telling him it had to happen. Here’s a bit of Puma’s report:
But the 30-year-old slumped early in the season and manager Buck Showalter, according to a source, met resistance from general manager Billy Eppler at various points when trying to employ options other than Vogelbach at DH against right-handed pitching.
Showalter was told he had to play Vogelbach, the source said.
Part of the manager’s opposition to Vogelbach was philosophical: Showalter viewed the DH spot as one that should be used on a rotation, allowing position players a partial rest while remaining in the lineup.
Puma also mentioned that Buck had an issue with Vogey’s “limited skill set”. We also had a problem with the Mets employing a one-dimensional player who wasn’t productive in the one way he was supposed to be. More from the Post:
It was assumed the Mets would unload Vogelbach at the trade deadline, but when that didn’t happen Showalter, according to a source, began openly questioning why Vogelbach was still on the team.
Not only was Vogelbach still on the team, but the source indicated the manager was told by Eppler to keep him in the starting lineup.
Well, well, well. I’m not going to lie. I had my own frustrations with Buck about the whole situation (while knowing there was likely more going on behind the scenes). Let this be my official apology, though. He was literally just as frustrated about this situation as the fans were.
As for Eppler, he’s taking the wrong page out of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s book.
The Mets waved the white flag on the Darin Ruf experiment prior to Opening Day. That was a sigh of relief. However, continuing to force Vogelbach into the lineup when other players should’ve gotten an opportunity was just terrible.
Yankees fans are all too familiar with this. The Bombers did it multiple times this year with guys like Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Things actually kind of worked out in 2023 with IKF. But after he didn’t produce as expected in 2022, the Yankees should’ve never tendered him a $6 million contract.
What it came down to was the fact that Cashman and the front office didn’t want to admit that those moves didn’t work out. IKF made it through the whole year. While Donaldson and Hicks didn’t, many Yankee fans will tell you the move to dump those players was long overdue.
This is exactly what Eppler did with Vogelbach. Did it torpedo the Mets’ season? No, definitely not. There was much more going on. But who knows what could’ve happened if Eppler just let Buck do his job instead of worrying about his own ego?
Many Mets fans will read Puma’s report and be annoyed that Eppler is still the team’s GM. But thankfully, he’s not the top baseball decision-maker any longer. That’s David Stearns’ job now. We can hope he’ll give the Mets’ next manager more leeway to actually manage his roster.