The Mets aspirations for the 2019 season appears to be in jeopardy. Key injuries are one thing, but the inability to have replacements is a baseball mortal sin…
The Mets, after getting swept away by the Brewers over the weekend, now find themselves in San Diego to take on the team they were supposed to be this year. At 19-16 in perhaps the toughest division in baseball, the Padres are only 1.5 games off the Wild Card pace in the National League. The Mets are 3-7 in their last ten, falling to four games off the pace.
San Diego boasts the second-best pitching staff in the league, while the highly touted Mets have fallen to eleventh out of fifteen teams. It’s a familiar story at this stage of the season – one team on the way up while the other seems unable to get out of its own way. For Mets fans, reminders of last season can’t be ignored.
As all baseball fans know, injuries are part of the game. The difference-maker, though, becomes the teams that can outlast those injuries by having replacement players ready to step in from inside the organization.
To this point and I’m sure to the chagrin of Mets fans, the poster child for replacement players this season has been the New York Yankees. With an All-Star team still on the Injured List (IL), only once with Cameron Maybin have the Yankees needed to go outside their organization to fill as many as thirteen holes on their team. This, while posting a 19-14 record and a +36 run differential.
The Mets? Well, they received a double-dose of bad news yesterday when they sent Steven Matz home to begin tests on another of his perennial forearm injuries. Plus, Jason Vargas, their usual four-inning starting pitcher, was forced to leave the game with an injury after – you guessed it – four innings of work when the Mets needed much more after Saturday’s eighteen-inning marathon.
In their last seven games, the Mets have scored a total of 15 runs. And remember, one of those games was a 1-0 win in which Noah Syndergaard drove in the lone of the game. With the possible exception of Pete Alonso (.280, 10 HR, 27RBI) and Jeff McNeil (.347 BA, .423 OBP), no one on the team is hitting. To the point where Brandon Nimmo (.194 with only seven extra-base hits and 49 strikeouts with less than a quarter of the season gone), Juan Lagares would normally be ticketed for Syracuse.
Todd Frazier hit a home run his first game back from injury, and that was the end of that dream (.146 with no walks). And Wilson Ramos, the Mets catcher, thought to be reliable as an extra power hitter in the lineup, has produced only one home run and four extra-base hits in his 32 games.
Forget It Brodie – Help Is Not On The Way
The Mets are thought to be bottom-heavy throughout their minor league system. If you want to see immense raw talent, get yourself to Columbia, South Carolina to see the Columbia Fireflies. They will have five of the Mets top 10 prospects. They will also feature an extremely athletic outfield of Ranfy Adon, Anthony Dirocie, Wagner Lagrange, and Jose Medina.
The Rumble Ponies look to be the second-best team to watch with the Mets no. 1 prospect and their top two pitching prospects. Their bullpen will also feature a few interesting arms that we saw this spring in Matt Blackham, Steve Villines, and Ryder Ryan.
And lo and behold, at the Triple-A level we discover the high crimes and misdemeanors intended by the previous administration run by Sandy Alderson, where no one except used-up veterans is at the Triple-A level. To wit, the Syracuse Mets roster is certainly void of prospects though they are loaded with veterans like Carlos Gomez, Rajai Davis, Gregor Blanco, Hector Santiago, Danny Espinosa, and Adeiny Hechavarria. Of course, they also have the draw of Tim Tebow. (metsmerizedonline.com).
I’ll second that analysis based on the team I saw play in Syracuse yesterday, getting pummeled by the Scranton Yankees 14-3. (see this morning’s column) And there should be little doubt that Brodie Van Wagenen has the same assessment.
Mets: Paying For Past Mistakes
Few if any would grade Sandy Alderson’s tenure as GM of the Mets as poor. But there are two glaring absences in his resume. One is his inability or unwillingness to stand up to the Wilpons in trying to get them to open their pocketbooks – even just a little bit. The second one is more acute though, which is he fell asleep at the wheel when it came to tending to his flock of children in the Mets farm system.
It’s not only that the top-level at Triple-A is devoid of major league talent, but also the fact that talents like Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso are promoted to the Mets not having learned how to play their position. And especially with Rosario, the Mets are suffering dearly because of it.
To Van Wagenen’s credit, he has not adopted a “What do you expect from me, look what I inherited?” refrain with the press. And perhaps, that is in deference to Alderson, who has his health issues to deal with. But the fact remains, the chickens are coming home to roost for the Mets, and unless Brodie has the wherewithal to put the flames out before they blaze out of control, the Mets season could be lost in a matter of weeks.
Brodie Van Wagenen: Choices, Choices, Choices
Actually, Van Wagenen doesn’t have that many choices. He has only two. He can adopt an Alderson to Terry Collins response to Mets manager, Mickey Callaway, essentially telling him – “You’re a big league manager – deal with it” (the players you have).
Cynics would say, Hey, that’s a good strategy and maybe that’s one way to get Callaway out of there. But that doesn’t appear to be Van Wagenen’s style, and if the time comes, Brodie will simply fire Callaway and move on.
The second scenario involves finding teams who (already) are on the verge of playing out the rest of the season and working deals with these teams to replenish the Mets roster. The Marlins, Orioles, and Royals all qualify. Who do these teams have the Mets could use? Don’t ask that – it’s Van Wagenen’s job to make that happen. And besides, the trade market, much like the Stock Market, is in flux from day to day.
But one thing is certain. The Mets need more than Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and sometimes impressive Zack Wheeler to fortify their starting staff. And they need more than Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, and occasionally Michael Conforto and Robinson Cano to sparkle with the bat – on the same day!
This is not 2018 deja vu – not yet. But it could be. Take a look at the Mets upcoming schedule in May – if you dare to and draw your own conclusions. But then again, no one said this would easy…