The New York Mets, along with most major league teams, are left with little more than a disappointing season to mull over. Never mind that, though, because a winning formula for 2019 is forming.
The New York Mets will close out the 2018 season as a losing team. The dream of a winning season began to fade as early as May when the Mets went 10-18, reaching the stage of total collapse in June when the wheels came off, and they swooned to an ungodly and season-ending 5-24 record.
As Mets fans know, the team’s fortunes changed dramatically in the second half to the point where the Mets are now playing over-.500 baseball with a brand of play that brings more than just hope for the 2019 season.
It could be a mirage, who knows? But then again, anyone who follows baseball and has a “feel” for the game can sense when something or someone in the game is real or not. So, for what it’s worth from someone who has followed the game (and the Mets) for half a century, this is real, folks.
It doesn’t have to mean the Mets are ready to challenge the Atlanta Braves or Philadelphia Phillies next season, but they could. And that’s a significant difference. The Mets are no longer an embarrassment to themselves and their fans. It’s all on a small scale, of course, but at least the team is no longer shooting itself in the foot due to their inability to judge baseball talent.
Start at the top with the decision by John Ricco et al., when the Mets realized they still have the nucleus of one of the best (when healthy) starting pitching staffs in all of baseball. Steven Matz needs a dose of Zack Wheeler confidence, and Jason Vargas needs to remember how he two-hit the same team two weeks ago but beyond that, the Mets match up with any one-two tandem in the big leagues when they present Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard on successive days.
It’s not over yet, though, and the lure of trading someone like Wheeler on the backend of an illustrious season is a lure the Mets might respond to, especially if it means adding a right-hand power bat to their lineup. Or, the team could jump in the deep end offering Wheeler an extension during his final year of control by the team, and instead pursuing the big bat via free agency.
Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce both get incomplete marks for this season due to injuries. Both lengthen the Mets lineup, however, and are an integral part of next season. As an anomaly the Mets are not used to seeing, Frazier and Bruce want to be a New York Met, and each player realizes the team is back on track.
Amed Rosario, slowly but surely, is emerging into the player the Mets believed he could be. Star power, probably not. But Rosario is on pace to be a consistent player both offensively and defensively for the next decade. Add his counterpart to the mix in Jeff McNeil at second base, and the Mets conceivably have a replacement for Daniel Murphy who can spray the ball around the park with an occasional blast into the seats.
And then you come to Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto. What’s there not to like about either player. Sure, we can ask of Conforto, “Where were you when we needed you in May and June,” but again everything now points to 2019, and Conforto’s tear with the bat now points to a season where he may yet reach 30 home runs for the team. (See Video)
As for Nimmo, his enthusiasm for the game alone is enough to keep him as a valuable commodity for the Mets, a team which lacks an ever-smiling, always “up,” Francisco Lindor or Mookie Betts.
I happened to catch the legendary General Manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, on MLB Radio the other day when he was explaining the extraordinary rise of his team. Beane made it sound like (paraphrasing), “Hey, there’s no mystery. You do it by adding one piece at a time. Each player is a small piece, but when added together the big piece comes into focus, and off you go”.
For the Mets, this means finding the pieces to rebuild their bullpen, deciding whether or not Juan Lagares is capable of playing more than ten games in a row and making a move accordingly, along with a decision on Dominic Smith at first base and his competition knocking on the door, Peter Alonso.
Mets fans won’t like this, but it was the Yankees scouts who followed Luke Voit for more than a year when he was with the Cardinals before acquiring Voit in a trade that has revamped and lengthened the Yankees lineup. Players like Voit are out there – small pieces. The Mets scouts need to find them.
To reiterate, with the team’s strong showing of late, there is more than just hope associated with the team now. Decisions regarding personnel abound as noted above, but the pieces are beginning to fall into place, meaning it’s time to keep the line moving and not let down during the offseason.
The Wilpons notwithstanding, the baseball people have enough control to find the right pieces to make the whole. Just ask Billy Beane if you’re not sure.
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