A column like this is certain to draw the attention of both fair-weather and “real” fans of the Mets. Neither will be satisfied with the content. But I don’t care, because truth be told this team needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the bottom up. And the sooner the better.
After 53 games of the 2018 season, the Mets record entering Friday’s date with the Chicago Cubs is 27-26. Mostly due to the collapse of teams in the NL West, the Mets are only three games out in the Wild Card race, which is just enough to give the Mets hopeful there is still a chance to save the season.
One game over .500 at almost the quarter-pole of the season does not, however, explain the team’s record of 16-25, a winning percentage of (.390) that keeps company with the likes of the Reds, Marlins, and Padres in the National League. To be fair, the Mets are not as good as they were in the beginning and they are not as appalling as they’ve been since then.
The Mets are what they are – a .500 team that will not embarrass themselves or their fans on the field. And judging by attendance figures for the 2018 season, 29,000 fans still flock to Citi Field to watch the Mets, which is enough to keep the Wilpon’s head above water.
That being said (an anthem to do nothing), teams like the Phillies, Braves, and Brewers are soaring by the Mets building teams for today and tomorrow, through grit, determination, and risk. This, while the Mets continue to stumble in the haze of injuries and underwhelming performance on the field.
For openers, I don’t believe a word anyone from the Mets says about injuries. “Mets ace starter Noah Syndergaard was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday, retroactive to Saturday, with a strained ligament in his right index finger. An MRI performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York on Tuesday revealed the ligament strain. A blood blister in the same finger surfaced during his start on Opening Day.” (Tori McElhaney, MLB.,com)
Opening Day and a blister! Does one and one make two, and the blister is tied to straining the ligament to the point of injury? I don’t know. But, the Mets should damn well know. And while we’re on the subject of injuries, has anyone run into Jim Cavalini, the “top flight expert” hired during the offseason by the Mets to an executive position, with the charge to combat the rash of injuries afflicting the team?
I didn’t think so, and apparently, Steven Matz hasn’t had the opportunity to sit down with Cavalini either. Nor has Yeonis Cespedes, who hasn’t made an appearance for the Mets since May 13, and is still (probably forever) plagued with football legs trying to play baseball.
Enough. Let’s get to the point, which is the Mets need to draw a line in the sand by announcing to their fan base – we’ve seen enough and it ain’t working. But where do you start and what is the time frame you set for yourself in dissolving the team and rebirthing an organization?
The Mets plan can be to start in first gear at the trade deadline, disposing of Jay Bruce (there will be takers as there were last year), Steven Matz (wrong place, wrong time for this talented but injury prone pitcher), Juan Lagares (ditto Matz), Travis d’Arnaud (thankfully out for the season), Zack Wheeler (how far can they go with this guy?), Asdrubal Cabrera (free agent next year anyway), Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and Jose Reyes (what in heaven’s name are they doing on this team in the first place?), and we’ll stop there.
The bullpen, such as it is? Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo either belong in the starting rotation or they don’t belong on the team at all. Trade ’em, along with the rest of them while the tradin’s good. Clean house. Start over.
And what of the big two, Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom? Of deGrom, the wind will soon be released from the Mets sails when he enters the first of three arbitration years in 2019 before DeGrom becomes a free agent in 2021. Is there anyone who foresees the Wilpons being happy with the salary he will command as soon as next year, and moving forward, given the year he is having?
And Syndergaard, the man who was supposed to overwhelm from day one in spring training when the first pitch he threw was a 100mph fastball that startled even Mickey Callaway. What of him? The Mets have hinted at times there’s something not quite right about Syndergaard as far as “makeup”. All the stuff in the world just isn’t adding up. The team has not been able to unlock the mystery and time is moving on. What would Syndergaard land in a trade?
The centerpiece of the organization, Brandon Nimmo, should remain, with a lukewarm endorsement of Amed Rosario attached at least for now. Ditto Michael Conforto, despite his awkward sophomore disaster this season.
I laughed when Mets GM, Sandy Alderson, proclaimed after the Yankees landed Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins when he quipped (paraphrasing), “We don’t need Stanton, we have Nimmo”, but Nimmo is precisely what the Mets need to build on as a baseball gym rat.
Timing is everything, and that’s why a Marlin’s type selloff isn’t necessary. I never imagined I would be saying this given the Met’s contraints on payroll, but the time is now to dump salary (Bruce, Todd Frazier, mainly), together with releasing the core of over the hill players (Gonzalez, Reyes, and Bautista), and finagling a trade of Lagares in August when he is due to come off the DL.
The return? Well, it’s not going too much in terms of fans looking at 2019, or possibly even 2020. But to those fans, I say, do you want to go on like this, forever engaged in rooting for a team that isn’t keeping up with the Jones’s in their division?
Or, do you want to see a splash of the future playing at Double-A Binghamton and (coming next year) Triple-A Syracuse? And along with that, maybe it’s time to start paying more attention to John Ricco, the Mets Assistant General Manager to Alderson. Too many birthdays have come and gone for Alderson, who at 70 is bound to be looking for greener pastures or retirement soon.
There is a future for the New York Mets. But it is not with the team we see today.