The Mets have a lineup that is working. The team also has several players on the Injured List for whom repairs have been made. They’re coming back. What happens then?
Overall, the Mets have been fortunate with injuries this year. Players who have lost significant time include Yoenis Cespedes, who I’m hearing has promised never to come back (fingers crossed) and Jed Lowrie, who has yet to play a game at Citi Field, Finally, reliever Robert Gsellman who recently went down with a season-ending injury.
Like all good teams, the Mets have been able to withstand the loss of other players were forced to take a temporary seat on the sidelines. J.D. Davis has been nothing short of phenomenal since becoming a regular in Mickey Callaway‘s lineup.
Joe Panik is in a panic raising his batting average by fifteen points since joining the Mets from the Giants. Justin Wilson is showing what he can do when healthy in the Mets rising bullpen. And Juan Lagares is showing signs of life after moving from a bench player to the teams’ regular center fielder.
Mets: Change Is On The Way
Things are about to change, however, and life will suddenly become more complicated not only for Callaway but the players as well. Someone is going to lose playing times when Jeff McNeil (return is imminent) Brandon Nimmo (at Syracuse playing in rehab games), Jed Lowrie (also at Syracuse), and even Robinson Cano, who caused a stir on Thursday pronouncing himself fit enough to take ground balls and batting practice, could negate his “out for the season” diagnosis. Even Dominic Smith has a shot of returning in September.
In addressing the upcoming problem he is facing, Mickey Calloway pretty much kicked the can down the road, telling Dan Martin of the New York Post:
So for now, Callaway paints the kettle white claiming it’ll be a good time to give some of his regulars “a rest”. Thereby, enabling the returning players to get some much-needed at-bats to work the rust out.
A rest? Say what? In the middle of a pennant race? There’s no rest when the Mets are chasing teams to win the final Wild Card spot. You play until you drop. And the next guy does the same until there are no more games left to play. It’s war. Even the Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros – comfortable in their Division leads – are playing for something. Home field advantage throughout the postseason is at stake, a prize worth fighting for.
Putting The Pieces Together
Always flexible, Jeff McNeil can play almost anywhere. But if Callaway decides to use him in the outfield, who does he bump? Surely not Michael Conforto, a fixture in right field. Surely not Davis whose play of late has been a catalyst for the team both offensively and defensively.
That leaves Lagares as the odd man out, exiling him to the bench as a role player where he has proved time and time again he’s useless without regular at-bats.
Should Cano come back with the dollars he’s making, second base is in his heritage, and Joe Panik takes a seat. And what of Brandon Nimmo? Where does he play? And who gets the boot when he does play?
Callaway: Another Hurdle To Overcome
To further complicate Callaway’s life, come September 1st rosters are expanded. Players who have thrived in the minor leagues are rewarded for the outstanding seasons they’ve had. Looking ahead to next year, the Mets need to see what these guys can do at this higher level. For many, this is their chance.
Brodie Van Wagenen will be taking a particular interest in the call-ups as well with an eye toward seeing who’s a keeper and who can be used in a trade during the offseason. Van Wagenen can’t evaluate if there’s nothing to see because Callaway can’t find playing time for them.
There’s nothing good about any of this except for the fact the Mets will be (more or less) at full strength. Beyond that, though, the crunch for playing time can quickly become a house of horrors in a clubhouse that has noticeably gelled in recent weeks.
I’d watch (and I will) this one very closely…