Following their now incomprehensible 11-game winning streak in April, the Mets sat at 13-3. Yes there was nearly an entire season ahead of them, but the optimism was as palpable in the clubhouse as it was in the stands, the broadcast booth and the back pages. If they could just muster a .500 record for the remainder of the long season they’d finish with 86 wins, their best record since 2008 and within sniffing distance of a wild card.
Hopes were so high a book was prematurely published lauding the genius of GM Sandy Alderson. Matt Harvey was as good as new. Bartolo Colon was unbeatable. Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud were tearing the cover off the ball. SNY television ratings were up and Citi Field was rockin’. And then the wheels came off.
Injuries. Batting slumps. Errors. Mental mistakes. From playoff chatter, we’re suddenly under .500. It all went south so quickly. Long faces in the dugout. Collective sighs in the stands. Vitriol on the social media channels. How do the Mets stop this season from circling the drain? By everyone doing their part from the field to the dugout to the front office. This has been a collective failure and everyone on the Mets payroll needs to own it.
In the wake of injuries, winning teams have players who step up their game. The Mets possess no such players. While the team continued playing well after David Wright got injured, the team stopped playing good baseball as soon as Daniel Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud got injured. Lucas Duda stopped hitting. Maybe he’s trying too hard or maybe he’s being pitched around with no protection in the lineup. Does this same excuse hold for Michael Cuddyer and Juan Lagares? Why does Curtis Granderson only hit solo homeruns? Why can’t Wilmer Flores ever draw a walk? Why do Kevin Plawecki, Eric Campbell and Dilson Herrera all hit like Ted Williams in Las Vegas and then forget how to swing a bat when they get the call to the show? And why does this team seem so overmatched on the road – like they don’t belong in the big leagues? They should be embarrassed.
Terry Collins is a nice guy and it’s certainly not his fault this team has been hit hard by injuries or that he wasn’t given any depth to work with. However, he does have some control over the outcome of a game. Too many times he has pulled a pitcher at the wrong time. Several times he pulled Jacob deGrom or Matt Harvey a batter or an inning too soon only to lose the game or make them settle for a no-decision. Several other times, especially with Bartolo Colon, Collins has left him in an inning too long. Colon is typically great for five or six innings and falls apart in the 7th inning. Same often holds true for Jon Niese. Use that seven-man bullpen to shorten and protect the game, not play nitpicky games swapping out pitchers after every at-bat like you’re Tony LaRussa in the 1989 World Series.
When a batter has a great game, don’t bench him the next day. And for the love of all things holy, please get over your love affair with Ruben Tejada. No one else outside of his immediate family shares your affinity for him. And do a Bull Durham and fling the bats into the shower to wake these guys up. They’re embarrassing themselves and letting down their fans.
Wasn’t Kevin Long supposed to be a savior? While it’s nice to see Grandy hitting solo shots and drawing walks, why are the young hitters not adjusting to big league pitching? Why hasn’t Lagares shown improvement?
The Front Office
The Mets are not the only team to suffer injuries, however losing players to the DL goes from being a hindrance to a disaster when payroll limitations prevent you from building out an adequate bench. For a few million more, the Mets could have really used another veteran or two. Even when everyone is healthy, there’s no big bat to bring in as a late inning pinch hitter, DH or to spell a veteran for a game. Once you have three starters on the DL, you wind up with hasbeens and quadruple A players in the everyday lineup. Not a formula for success. Ownership is to blame for not giving Alderson a bigger check book, but Alderson has made his share of mistakes too.
How nice would Justin Turner look in a Mets uniform right now? How about Angel Pagan? Without even mentioning a certain shortstop who everyone misses, the league is littered with ex-Mets having great years. Alderson has many times let the wrong guy get away. Meanwhile, he’s held on to others like Dillon Gee for too long until they’ve lost all value. Alderson has also signed the wrong free agents. Think this offense would be performing a little better with Nelson Cruz instead of either Granderson or Cuddyer? Or how about Nori Aoki instead of Jon Mayberry? Alderson has not been nimble with this roster either. We’ve seen the pitching log jam problem coming since last year, yet he did nothing to address it in the offseason and now we have a budding star languishing in triple A because we can’t make room for him in the rotation.
Alderson has stated that trades don’t happen in June. Well, if he waits until July, it may well be too late for this season. In the end, Collins may have to fall on the sword, but the root of this team’s failure isfar more widespread.