For too long, the New York Mets have wandered and floundered in search of the way to right the runaway ship that sunk to a new low this baseball season. Finally, though, there is a glimmer of hope and light depicting a franchise that has a grasp on reality.
The willingness of any major league team, and especially a stubborn one like the Mets, to cash in their chips on a season with two months left to play is a rare occurrence when a boatload of money is on the line.
To their credit, the Mets, from the top on down have done precisely that, putting the 2019 season clearly in view of their players, and even more significantly, their fans. More importantly perhaps, Sandy Alderson’s declining health, which seemed to result in a lull in energy that spread throughout the organization, and which was ignited only by the hiring of Mickey Callaway, is gone
Finally, there is an honesty about the team which is as alluring as it is needed.
The unrelenting and sad insistence that David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes, a sure-fired downer on the team (his bat will never overcome the disruption), will parachute from the heavens, covering their mammoth contracts, is gone.
For better or worse, instead, the Mets are committing themselves to a pool of young talent that is at their immediate disposal, even if it means exercising inordinate patience teaching skills that should have been mastered in the Mets minor league system.
Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, and Jeff McNeil form the nucleus of that group moving forward, with McNeil appearing to be the most advanced at this stage of development. None of the three will hit for power, a trademark of Met teams during the Sandy Alderson era.
Callaway’s decision to move Rosario into a leadoff role with McNeil behind him is an experiment Mickey Callaway will continue to explore for the remainder of the season. So far, so good with McNeil especially showing the ability to do what it takes given any situation his at-bats call for.
The genesis of the new plan began with, of all people, Jeff Wilpon, who instructed his tri-fold GM team to “be creative” at the trade deadline. Surprisingly, the Mets held fast in not trading their projected starting rotation for the 2019 season, despite an avalanche of opinion urging the purge of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in return for a brand new team of young and athletic players to restock the Mets farm system.
Together with the wish and a prayer that Steven Matz can finally get through a full season unscathed from injuries, and Zack Wheeler‘s last six or seven starts are not merely another tease that will eventually fall by the wayside again, the Mets will boast a powerful starting four going into next season, and one that can compete with any team in the National League East.
Calloway still believes that Jason Vargas can round out the rotation, but the new general manager of the Mets is likely to pursue an upgrade via a trade or free agent signing. Or, the team can take a pass using Seth Lugo in that role and look for bullpen help to replace Lugo, who has excelled in his role as a reliever.
Jay Bruce has two more years on his contract following his vanishing act this season due to injury. The Mets can’t be a punch-and Judy team from top to bottom and Bruce will be counted on to slip into the four or five hole producing runs.
The search for another power bat among the free agents will be difficult, but necessary. The Class of 2019, as advertised, is one of the strongest to come along in years. The trouble is it’s almost impossible to find anyone of value among position players under the age of 30, other than Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
The Mets, for example, continue to have glaring holes at both third and first base. But a glance at this year’s crop of third basemen shows only Eduardo Escobar (Diamondbacks) in the age (he’s 30) and price range the Mets could make a run for. The same is evident in the field of first basemen, where the talent pool is even more paltry unless the team takes a flyer on Matt Adams who is having a decent, though not remarkable, year for the Nationals.
The salient point remains, though, that the Mets are finally a team moving forward with a solid plan intact that is designed to energize both the team and fans. 25,000 fans turned out for yesterday afternoon’s game at sun-baked Citi Field in 90+ degree heat. In what could be a sign of things to come, the Mets held it together shutting out the Reds with stellar pitching and an offense that scored eight runs without a home run.
The Mets will never be a team that expects to win a championship. The competition is too severe for that. But what’s been missing is the hope that the team can improve to the point of being competitive enough, and without the injuries, to put together a team that forcefully challenges for a Wild Card every season.
For a myriad of reasons, the Mets missed out this year. But now, with another set of goals, 2019 is beginning to have a nice ring to it…
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