Mets: It Was There For The Taking But They Failed To Seize It

Mets Building Block Strategy

The 2021 Mets were overcome by teams as mediocre as they are, and it wasn’t luck or the schedule that beat them – they were built to fail.

The 2021 Mets have a lot of explaining to do as a team of 28 players who have gone 18-29 during August and September while effectively dropping out of the Wild Card race.

Surrounded by teams failing in similar ways, the Mets managed to fail even more.

Consider this:

  • The Atlanta Braves, as a team, are seven games above .500, and they’ve dropped six of their last ten games.
  • Their home record is 37-36.
  • Their record against +.500 teams is 29-38, the same mark as the St. Louis Cardinals, who now hold a 3-game lead for the final Wild Card spot.
  • Over the last ten games, the Mets are 3-7 while three teams ahead of them have limped along at 3-7 (Cincinnati), 5-5 (Philadelphia), and San Diego (2-8).

The Mets had it all in front of them, and it was there for the taking – but instead of seizing the moment like the Cardinals have, reeling off eight straight, the Mets folded before our eyes.

Mets: The Engine That Couldn’t – Or Wouldn’t?

The Mets didn’t get routed; they got nipped, going 2-15 in games decided by one run down the stretch.

The Mets Need To Find More Brandon Nimmo's
The Mets Need To Find More Brandon Nimmo’s

Overall, the Mets were 28-32 in one-run games this season, which, if nothing else, is a testament to the team’s solid pitching.

Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo summed it up best when he said, “Those come down to one or two plays of execution, and it comes down to the smallest things.”

Bingo! But here’s the catch.

Beyond the facts that demonstrate that the Mets did not execute in these situations, as seen in their bottom-of-the-league team batting rankings, lies this question.

Is it a question that the Mets are a poorly constructed team, put together by an inept front office – or is that the players themselves refused to make an effort to do the “smallest things” that Nimmo was referring to?

Or, as some have suggested, and I concur, is it that this group of Mets players was never taught how to play winning baseball as they came up through the Mets system?

Some, like Brandon Nimmo, have these intangible skills instinctively, but most need to be taught fundamental skills like how to hit a ground ball to second with a runner on second base and no one out or lifting a fly ball to score a runner from third with less than two out.

It may be a cliche, but it’s true – you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and this is not only the state of the current Mets team. Instead, it’s been that way since the 1986 team that featured players like Tim Teufel, Keith Hernandez, Dave Magadan, Wally Backman, and Howard Johnson – all of whom could handle a bat and knew how to set up or drive in a run.

In a study conducted by ESPN and the Elias Sports Bureau, the Mets rank 24th of the 30 MLB teams in Productive Outs (defined here), succeeding only three times in every ten chances.

This is not a formula for playing winning baseball – consistently.

Mets: A Two-Pronged Strategy For 2022 And Beyond

If we say that the Mets have the desire to, but they simply don’t know how to win, then that means the team needs to be overhauled in two ways.

First, and as a stopgap only, the Mets front office needs to bring in players who already have these intangible skills for 2022, along with its corollary of eliminating those who lack these skills.

Changing the Mets Culture (Photo: New York Post)
Changing the Mets Culture (Photo: New York Post)

These players are out there, and some can be found in The Class Of 2022 MLB Free Agents.

Others can be uncovered and brought in via trades, but a long-range plan is also required, and this one flies in the face of Steve Cohen’s 3-year plan to bring a championship to Mets fans.

From the lowest levels of the Mets minor league system, hitting and winning baseball fundamentals need to be taught – and learned.

The emphasis on learning these skills means that when the Mets have a player who insists on doing it his way because he has dreams of winning the Home Run Derby someday – he’s gone!

It’s about building a culture that stresses a team with mutual skills and goals – and no matter what a hitting coach does at the major league level tries to do – he can’t do that.

Mets: The Playbook Is Already There

To accomplish the turnaround in culture, the Mets need not re-invent the wheel.

The blueprint is there with teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants, who it seems like every time you look at one of their box scores, there’s a new name contributing to a win.

Players like Ji-man Choi, Austin Meadows, Kevin Kiermaier (Tampa Bay), Darin Ruf, Mike Yastrzemski, and (remember him) Wilmer Flores (Giants) did not fall from the sky. They were all brought in or raised by their respective teams to do what they are doing today.

The Mets may get outrageously lucky in bringing in two or three players during the offseason, who together with the remaining Mets can transform the team in a single season. But more likely, the Mets fans will need to give Cohen an extra year or two to make good on his promise.

Sticking To The Plan

Equally important is that Steve Cohen refuses to submit to the pressure of winning (Now!) in New York and mainly concentrates on re-building the Mets farm system.

Steve Cohen: Patience To Build A Second Empire?
Steve Cohen: Patience To Build A Second Empire?

We saw the remnants of what Cohen inherited from the Wilpon and Brodie Van Wagenen tenure when the Mets looked to their Double-A and Triple-A teams for help when key players went down with injuries.

The Bench Mob did their best, making a splash in the water that held the Mets at the top of the NL East, but they were not built to last, and today the cupboard is bare with nothing to draw on.

The question for Mets fans then is this: Do they want a one-and-done World Series title like the Chicago Cubs went all-out to win in 2015 – or do they want a team like the Dodgers and the Rays who consistently put a winning team on the field every year?

Hopefully, there is a lesson to be learned from leaping before you look as the Mets did in signing Francisco Lindor to a ten-year $341 million deal when they didn’t have to, waiting instead to see how things went in 2021.

If the Mets buy anything during the upcoming offseason, it should be a Lego set of building blocks – players who add a small though not insignificant piece to the team.

That, along with a firm commitment to rebuild their minor league system to the point where like Tampa Bay, they can promote fundamentally sound players from within while only occasionally bringing in a player or two (Nelson Cruz) to fill a hole here and there.

It’s either that or more of the same from the Mets…

Here’s What Readers Are Saying…

Jim Kulhawy  You could substitute Yankees for Mets, and write the same article. Funny, I was thinking the same thing myself.

Steven John Penza Sr. My thoughts EXACTLY! I agree that this team was not built to Win.

Isaac Carrington Or, as some have suggested, and I concur, is it that this group of Mets players was never taught how to play winning baseball as they came up through the Mets system?✅ 💯agree with the point that the author makes

Larry Brown This was one season when the NL East was really up for grabs. No team seemed to want to lead the division and the Mets looked like they were ready to run away with it. Until they didn’t. Once they dropped out of first place I figured they were done. And sadly, I was right.

LG Garcia Coming into the season the team looked good enough to make the playoffs. ( if everything went right) But there were too many injuries and underperforming players, Unfortunately, the front office didn’t try hard enough at the trade deadline to correct the deficiencies in the offense and starting rotation. Let’s hope they build a championship team this off-season.

Peter F. Glynn Note: Peter gave the once-over on yesterday’s article, and he comes back to say this: This one is much better…A question I would have liked to have seen you go on deeper is the teaching in the minors. Off the top of my head, I count 10 of 31 position players who grew up in the Mets system on the roster this year. You compliment Wilmer on his abilities and I believe few people go the other way as Conforto does. So I am wondering if the Mets do teach the right things and other organizations don’t. But like I said this is something much better than your last one.

This will close published comments due to page length restrictions. Thanks to all for the read and to those who took the time to comment – Yea or Nay.

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Steve Contursi
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.