The Mets don’t deserve it, but they’ll likely get a mulligan from their fans for a poor showing in 2020 as all eyes turn to Mr. Cohen and 2021.
The Mets 2020 season is all but over with twelve games to play and 2.5 games to make up in the National League East Wild Card Standings.
In a season where the Marlins, Padres, Phillies, and Giants are likely to qualify for the 2020 postseason, the Mets, without an unlikely splurge of success (like 9-3), will return to the comfort of their homes and families, forgoing the quarantined “torture” for as many as six weeks – and possible glory in winning a World Championship.
In any other season, Mets fans should and would be screaming when they look at the list below, and nowhere do we find the much-heralded preseason Mets, a team who has seen the playoffs only four times in the last two decades (2000, 2006, 2015, and 2016)
Who cares if the Mets are synonymous with false hope and failure again? Virtually no one, that’s who – and it’s all because the Wilpons have been deposed by a brash billionaire named Steve Cohen, and the future looks as bright as ever.
Mets: The Talent Was There
So, put aside the Mets having the best pitcher in baseball (Jacob deGrom), together with the best batting average in the league (.279), the highest on-base percentage (.354), the most hits, and are in a tie with the Padres for the best OPS+ (123).
Mea culpa, mea culpa, and mea maxima culpa – all sins are forgiven – and this season never happened.
No, this season does count, and Steve Cohen had nothing to do with it. The Mets received outstanding seasons from Dominic Smith (.331 BA, .396 OBP, 38 RBI), Michael Conforto (.341 BA, .427 OBP, 31RBI), Jeff McNeil (.331 BA, .399 OBP, 21 RBI), and lo and behold, a .320 BA, .363 OBP, 20 RBI season from 37-year old Robinson Cano.
Absent from the list, of course, is Pete Alonso, who grew awake a week or so too late this year.
Still, he has 13 HR and 26 RBI to show for what has been pretty much a lost season coming back from his out of this planet record-setting year in 2019.
With that kind of production, the Mets have no excuses as a team six games under .500. But, as Joe Maddon is fond of saying, “You are what your record says you are.”
Mets: Pitching Is Not The Reason Either
Some will hammer Mets pitching this year as the culprit. Okay, let’s take a look at where the Mets fit in with other teams.
Using Baseball-Reference as a source, come to find out – the Yankees, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and St. Louis all have higher team ERA’s than the Mets – and all of them are playoff-bound teams.
For the Mets, what looked good in the usual February team forecasts, turned out to be, as the cliche says, no better than the paper it was printed on – and there must be some accountability for that having happened.
Again, in any other year, the Mets manager, Luis Rojas, would be under fire, even as a first-year manager. The shuffling of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman between the bullpen and the starting rotation rests on his shoulders, as does his early-season non-commitment to Dominic Smith.
Under fire, though not fired, Rojas at least would be on notice by Brodie Van Wagenen that 2020 is his mulligan, and if it happens again, a change will be made.
Ditto for Van Wagenen as well. BVW’s mainstay acquisitions during the offseason, Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello, proved to be capable of pitching only well enough to lose. Standing pat at the August 31 trade deadline left the Mets without a “new face” in the dugout, unlike last year’s trade for Marcus Stroman, who lit up the clubhouse.
Continuing with the Steven Matz experiment can sit at the door of the entire Mets coaching staff and front office. Matz’s 0-4 start with an 8.63 ERA should have been noticed and acted on after two starts, not the five the Mets gave him. Note: Matz is a head case, and BVM needs to find a suitor for him on another team.
You Are What Your Record Says You Are
It’s foolhardy to overlook what happened to the Mets this year, mainly because losing is ingrained in the Mets culture. Losing is expected – whereas winning is a welcome surprise.
Therefore, the task of Steve Cohen, and at least for the interim, is for Van Wagenen to find players, whether thru free-agent $igning$ or by trades, who are winners.
Moreover, to find players with a built-in character that doesn’t need filtering or constant attention (think Matz and Amed Rosario) to deal with the pressure of playing at this level.
J.T. Realmuto is the first and obvious choice to take over the Mets catching duties for five or six years.
That one move alone by Steve Cohen’s checkbook solidifies the Mets need for an all-around many-tooled player – with a built-in capacity to lead the team by his mere presence – a la Gary Carter and Mike Piazza in their heyday.
Mets fans, don’t forgive the Mets for their 2020 season – dwell on it. Pick it apart and find ways to make the team better.
Remember, Steve Cohen only has a checkbook to bring to the table. As far as we know, he has little or no insight for baseball and what it takes for a player to succeed at this level.
Do not forgive the Mets for their team performance this year. A winning culture never overlooks (losing).
And if Steve Cohen brings anything to the Mets other than his stashes of cash, let it be that winning culture, absent so long during the desperate years of the Wilpon dynasty.