It’s been said that in a few days, at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, we’ll all have perfect 2020 hindsight. Until then, we’ll have to rely on faulty memories about this most challenging of years. Baseball-wise, next to nothing happened for over three months and there were only 60 regular season games played. Still, good things happened for the Mets in the past 12 months. Here’s my take, what jumps to mind, as the 10 most memorable/important positive moments or events or streaks that happened for the club in 2020.
10. David Peterson fans 10 against the Braves on 9/19
At the beginning of the year, Peterson was a depth starter at the alternate site. It didn’t take long for him to get the call to the majors and he immediately put up good results. One thing that was lacking from him, though, was the ability to make hitters miss. In theory, we all want a guy who can get the other team to make weak contact early in the count and keep his pitch count down. In reality, you’ve got to be able to strike guys out at a strong clip to survive in the 21st Century. Peterson showed this ability late in the year. That it came against the Braves only made it that much better.
9. Yoenis Cespedes homers on Opening Day against the Braves on 7/24
No one who was a Mets fan in 2015 will forget the impact that adding Cespedes to the team made. And we’ve wanted to see that type of production from him again. It looked like injuries were going to keep us from ever seeing that, though. Then came stories about how he was hitting and running as Spring Training approached and it seemed like maybe the Mets could add another power righty bat to the lineup. And for one moment, it actually happened. Cespedes supplied the only run of the game in the opener to 2020, lifting the Mets to a 1-0 win. The euphoria was short-lived but it was there and it was fun to imagine.
8. Edwin Diaz pitches three straight one-inning games and fans eight versus the Phillies on 9/15-9/17
The Mets got Diaz to be a shutdown closer, so that their starters wouldn’t lose any more games due to reliever blowups. Then he proceeded to lose the closer’s job in both 2019 and 2020. But he earned his way back into the ninth-inning role, thanks in large part to some cartoonish strikeout rates. And while they didn’t all come in save opportunities, Diaz showed he could pitch, and pitch well, in consecutive games with this dominating performance against the Phillies, where eight of the nine outs he recorded came via the strikeout.
7. Robinson Cano suspended for the 2021 season on 11/18
Unlike in 2019, Cano got off to a hot start in the 2020 season. But he started to hit like a 37 year old in the second half of the year, as he put up a .670 OPS in his final 22 games. They never should have gotten him in the first place and playing him as he gets further away from his prime only compounds the problem. Now that problem has been removed for a year. The only reason this doesn’t rank higher on the list is because the Mets have yet to announce that he’ll never play another game for them again. Well, that and the need to balance out how what’s great for the team is bad for the individual in question.
6. Amed Rosario hits walkoff home run against the Yankees on 8/28
After beating the Yankees in the first game of a doubleheader, the Mets fell behind in the nightcap. Trailing by a run in the last inning, Rosario entered the game as a pinch-hitter against Aroldis Chapman and clubbed a two-run homer to win the game and give the Mets a sweep. The season didn’t go the way anyone hoped for Rosario and it’s possible this will be his biggest moment ever as a Met. That it came against the Yankees only made it sweeter.
5. Mets score 14 runs for Jacob deGrom in matchup versus Aaron Nola on 9/6
In deGrom’s first CY Award season in 2018, Nola was one of the main contenders for the award and he did his best pitching against the Mets that year, going 4-0 with a 2.15 ERA in six games. While he hasn’t been as good since 2018, it’s still nice to score a lot against a top hurler. And the fact that the Mets put up 17 hits, including 12 XBH, in support of deGrom made it so much the better. It didn’t make up for how inept the offense has been for him most of the 2018-19 period but it sure was nice to see.
4. Brodie Van Wagenen removed from his GM duties on 11/6
It’s hard to properly view the Van Wagenen era in Mets history just yet. Perhaps one day we’ll look at it as a noble failure. It’s my firm belief that you have to try different things from your competitors and hiring an agent as your GM certainly fits that category. If only they had written it into his contract that he couldn’t trade for his former clients it would have gone better. It wasn’t all bad under Van Wagenen and one might even argue that he had navigated most of the learning curve by the time he was let go. But as a glaring reminder of the Wilpon-era Mets, it was a good day when Van Wagenen was shown the door.
3. Jeff McNeil homers in four straight games on 9/6-9/9
In many ways, McNeil serves as a reminder of Daniel Murphy. Both were low round draft picks, both struggled to find a defensive home, both spent too much time hitting singles when they were capable of so much more. McNeil could win a batting title. But it’s more valuable to lead the league in OPS. Back in 2019, McNeil was hitting .339 thru games of July 21. From that point on thru the rest of the season, he hit just .278. But despite that 61-point drop in AVG, McNeil saw his OPS go up 35 points. That’s the hitter we want, the one who put up 26 XBH in 205 PA. In his first two years after leaving the Mets, Muphy put up 146 XBH in 1,175 PA and everyone lamented he was doing it for Washington and not New York. While it wasn’t a notable power year for McNeil, it was great to see him deliver 4 XBH – all homers – in 18 PA in this four-day span.
2. Pete Alonso hits 10th inning walkoff homer against the Yankees on 9/3
It’s always great fun to beat the Yankees. And it’s dramatic to do it with a walkoff homer. As Rosario showed earlier, it’s a way to get on this list. But what makes this one rank so much higher is that it came in the midst of an Alonso surge. If you ask the average fan about 2020 Alonso, he’ll say it was a disappointing year. But for the majority of 2020, he hit similar to how he did in 2019. In his rookie year, Alonso had a .941 OPS. In his final 39 games of 2020, Alonso put up a .902 OPS. It’s just that he got off to a brutal start and didn’t have a 162-game season to make up for it. In his first 18 games of the year, Alonso had a .197 AVG and a .632 OPS. But in his first 18 games after the All-Star break in 2019, Alonso had a .617 OPS. He was even worse in 2019. Alonso is going to be fine and anyone he wants to trade him for pennies on the dollar is making a huge mistake.
1. Mets announce Steve Cohen to buy team on 9/14
The year started with a proposed sale to Cohen falling apart, which was crushing since it seemed like he was the perfect guy to be the new owner. The Wilpons continued to have the team up for sale but it was months before Cohen again became publicly attached to the process. By this time, there were two other groups in the running and it wasn’t exactly a slam dunk that Cohen was going to end up the winner. Who knew how much bad blood existed from the earlier bid? Plus there was a concern how other owners would react, if there would be pressure to take fewer dollars to get someone without Cohen’s past issues. But, money won out in the end. It would be nearly two months later before the sale became official but the celebration began in earnest on this day.
Now let’s hope the team signs a major free agent in the next 60 hours to make this list out of date.