The New York Mets have taken to heart the cliche that goes, “It’s not where you start, but where you finish that counts”. A disastrous 2018 first half is being negated by a team effort that puts the Mets in good standing for next season. And maybe this time, it’s not a mirage.
Few can deny the New York Mets were the laughing stock of baseball in the leadup to the 2018 All-Star Game. Barely struggling to stay ahead of the Triple-A team fielded by Derek Jeter‘s Marlins, once again, the Mets could not keep their players on the field and the inability of the front office to replace the injured players befuddled even the most loyal fans of the team.
Errors on the field were matched by even larger ones off the field. First-year manager, Mickey Callaway, somehow sends the wrong lineup card to the umpires at the start of a game. Then, there’s the dance around the inevitable exile of Matt Harvey and his disappearing skills to the Cincinnati Reds. Followed by the announcement that Sandy Alderson was being replaced by not one, but three General Managers to finish out the season. The back page of the New York Post belonged to the Mets, but for all the wrong reasons.
The demise of the team reached epic proportions on August 7 when the Mets fell to 19 games under .500. The “I told you so” clamor from the New York media and a significant portion of the team’s fan base for not “doing something big” at the July trade deadline (like trading Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard) saw TV ratings plummet and attendance waver with the understanding the Mets season was over, and the only thing left was to play the string out under the “wait til next year” mantra lamely being sold by the team.
Except that hasn’t happened. The Mets are now in the midst of a streak carrying the team to ten wins in their last thirteen games. They haven’t improved in the standings, they’ve simply improved themselves as a team, something that has been missing for too long. They look “different.”
Jacob deGrom continues to marvel, and a Congressional investigation needs to be launched if Max Scherzer wins the Cy Young award. In fact, the entire starting staff has come together with quality starts, one after another, leaving the team with the luxury of looking to strengthen their bullpen and find another power bat (preferably a third baseman) during the offseason, Yoenis Cespedes be damned.
The nucleus of Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, an improving Amed Rosario, and the emerging Jeff McNeil, who looks more and more like a replica of Daniel Murphy, is ingrained with the team for the next decade. They’re not Murderer’s Row, but they can handle a bat and produce runs.
In some respects, the Mets get an overall free ride this season as other teams have disappointed in even higher proportions. The Washington Nationals, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants and the tumbling Arizona Diamondbacks have all sent their fans scurrying for the exits. “Stuff” happens in baseball.
The out with the past and in with the new strategy by the Mets is also seen in their unexpected but welcome handling of the David Wright situation. His loss from the team will not be felt as much by the young talent noted above who never had the opportunity to play with Wright. And maybe that’s a good thing as the next step in the Mets development is to solidify a new team with its own identity.
While playing the string out is visible with faltering teams like the Orioles, White Sox, Royals, and Rangers, the same cannot be said of the New York Mets in 2018. And for that, there is more than just hope the 2019 season will see the team carrying forward with all that has been gained the over the last two months.
Because for the first time in a good long while, the Mets are a fun team to watch.