With only a quarter of the season in the books, it’s probably too early for scoreboard watching. Schedule watching is a different matter, though, and it’s likely the Mets have taken a look at their upcoming games over the next month. What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?
Mainly for pitching matchups, Mickey Callaway and all managers need to know what’s coming beyond today. As we know, analytics rule baseball today and Callaway, for instance, may want to juggle his rotation a bit if he knows a week from now three games with the Nationals are followed by four games with the Marlins. Or vice-versa. I took a peek at the Mets schedule over the next 32 games that will bring them to June 17 (barring rainouts) and here’s what I discovered.
We’ll take the good news first, which is the Mets will not be relying on anyone but themselves to make or break their 2018 season. Or to put it another way, it’s put up or shut up time. Perform or get ready to be major sellers when the July trade deadline hits. That sounds like a threat, but it’s not. Instead, for the 25 players in the Mets clubhouse, this should be a rallying cry that is not tainted by the echoes of defeat.
Now, here’s the bad news if you see the cup half empty. With the exception of six games (of 32) against the Marlins and Orioles, the Mets play nothing but pennant contending teams. Here’s the breakdown:
Beginning on Tuesday, the Mets play two against Toronto, three against the NL West Division-leading Diamondbacks, then the break for four games against the Marlins, who are showing to be anything but a pushover.
That’s followed by a road trip taking the Mets to Milwaukee to face the NL Central Division-leading Brewers for four games, and then a jump to take on the Atlanta Braves, yet another division leader, for four games before they arrive back home to face the Cubbies for four contests.
The schedule Gods are good immediately following that juggernaut with a two-game respite with the Orioles, only to be smashed in the head with three games against the Yankees in the annual Subway Series.
But wait, it’s time to go on the road again, this time to face the Braves for two games and the Diamondbacks for four more, and then four games against the Rockies (not counted in this split) before the Mets return home to face the Dodgers.
See what I mean? A baseball analyst flying a drone over the skies of Citi Field might be tempted to blow the whole place up when no one is looking to save Mets fans from all that stress.
But with some retrospection, another analyst like myself will just say the Mets need to get through this stretch with a .500 record that will give them the opportunity to hold their ground, with time to prepare for an all-out assault in July and August.
Ken Davidoff, writing for the New York Post, already wants to know if “Mickey Callaway can successfully run a big-market, win-now team as a rookie manager?” That might seem a little drastic at this stage, but at the same time the question looms in the background for sure by this time next month if the Mets hobble through this stretch at 14-18 or even worse, 12-20 against the top teams in the National League.
I go exclusively with the good news, which is that by the end of this stretch the Mets will know if their investment in Jay Bruce holds water. They should also know if Jacob deGrom is further plagued by arm issues that require an extended stint on the DL.
Michael Conforto will finally get into the swing of things following his loss of time, or he won’t. Jason Vargas, a good sign by Sandy Alderson, will take the mask he is wearing off, or he won’t. And Adrian Gonzalez will emerge from an attack by Father Time, or he won’t.
If I were Sandy Alderson, I’d rather know, and I’d rather know sooner rather than later about these and other players on the Mets team. It wouldn’t be a crime if the Mets were sellers at the deadline. Todd Frazier, Bruce, and Asdrubal Cabrera (eligible for free agency after this year), and others will be appealing targets for teams who do make the cut if it turns out that way.
By that time, the Mets will also know what the haul is from the upcoming college draft and how that stacks up with their needs for the future.
The Mets are not the caliber of team we saw when they exploded on the scene going 11-1 to begin the season. But they are also not the team we’ve seen since then, currently occupying fourth place in the NL East.
But we don’t know who the Mets are yet, do we? And wouldn’t the town be jumping if they pulled off an 18-14 or 20-12 run to complete this segment of their schedule? No, all we know is that this is baseball at its most intriguing best for the next month. And for Mets fans everywhere – Let’s Go Mets!