Your intrepid columnist is reading a wildly entertaining book at the moment, with the unlikely title So Many Ways to Lose. It’s a perverse history of the New York Mets, as told by a diehard fan, Devin Gordon, a contributor to the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Mr. Gordon was a wide-eyed ten-year-old when a stray ground ball rolled between Bill Buckner’s beleaguered ankles late on a chilly October night in 1986, and his love for the same team we love comes through loud and clear. But as you might tell by the title, this is no fanboy exercise. The book sheds new light on the image of Gil Hodges, the repeated embarrassments foisted on Cleon Jones, and the too-late redemption of Mackey Sasser –that’s all I’ve gotten to so far. I can’t wait to see how he skewers the 2007-2008 seasons, the Mickey Callaway era or the Pizza Rat/Opossum incident. But I digress.

In the book, he describes four distinct “Ice Ages” in the franchise’s history. The first, most obvious one – “the fun one,” he calls it — is the Marvelous Marv/Polo Grounds period. The next, also self-evident was the one following the Midnight Massacre, when Tom Seaver was taken away, only thawed out with the arrival of Davey Johnson, Dwight Gooden and the rest of the rollicking roisterers that shaped the Golden Age. The third was in the aftermath of the fall of that loud and proud bunch, the epoch of “The Worst Team Money Can Buy.” There was a fourth, after the Subway Series of 2000 a fifth after the late-Aughts choke jobs and a sixth, after the 2015 World Series. From 2019 through 2022 — 2020 doesn’t count: 60 games proves nothing — it appeared that some early-stage climate change was taking place. The emergence of Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, coupled with some splashy acquisitions seemed to herald a new era of good feelings. Heck, 101 wins in 2022? They can do that again, easy…

As we all know, that’s not how it turned out in ’23. The splashy acquisitions turned out to just be all wet. The team never clicked and I use the term “team” ironically: this wasn’t a team so much as a collection of talent. History tells us that those type of squads rarely win anything. To his credit, owner Steve Cohen saw the writing on the wall at the trading deadline and pivoted quickly to a reload. It’s near impossible to build a farm system on the fly, but Cohen and now-departed GM Billy Eppler gave it a really good shot, nudging the Mets’ organization from near the bottom, to about the middle-of-the-pack in a couple of fell swoops. Unfortunately, the remaining major league product has suffered for it. The trades of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander basically gutted the pitching staff, Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana notwithstanding. It’s now to the point where the news of David Peterson’s hip surgery – effectively putting him on the shelf until next July — causes distress within a fan base that wanted to ride Peterson out of town on a rail during the summer. That’s one ice pellet.

Everybody knows new President of Baseball Operations David Stearns faces an uphill battle to keep this team viable and relevant in 2024 and nobody is really sure if he’s gotten off on the right foot. His first move, even before his official intro, was to remove Buck Showalter as manager, despite that 101-win campaign of 2022. While the universal consensus was that Craig Counsell had the job all but locked up, he instead finds himself manager of the Chicago Cubs. In another swift pivot, Stearns immediately hired the bench coach of the New York Yankees, Carlos Mendoza. While those around baseball – especially in the Bronx – rave about how great a hire this was, those of us out of that loop are scratching their heads. Considering that Mendoza was the chief advisor to a manager who is almost universally reviled among Yankee fans, the poster boy for the Manager-As-GMs-puppet model in modern baseball and that the Mets don’t have the best track record when hiring untried managers, we fans are less than sanguine about how this is going to pan out. By my count, the Mets have hired 11 managers with zero big-league experience; only Johnson and Willie Randolph guided the Mets into contention in their first years. So will Mendoza be the next Davey? Or the next Wes Westrum? That’s two frozen rivers.

And then, there’s the Alonso question. Our popular Polar Bear is entering his final arbitration season, which means that that barring any sort of contract extension or new deal, he will be a free agent at the end of 2024. His recent retention of the services of one Scott Boras, the superagent who specializes in such matters, all but seals that fate. Does that mean Alonso is a definite goner after this year? No, of course not, but it’s the rare Boras client who re-ups with his current team, rather than test the free agency waters. Be prepared for the daily Pete Watch: will he sign? Will he be traded? Would he actually accept a Qualifying Offer at the end of the year and if not, where will he sign? It’s a shame that the most dynamic offensive player since David Wright will have his season overshadowed by his contract status while the backroom drama more than likely plays out in the press. And that’s three imminent glaciers.

As is the Mets’ way, each one will probably reveal itself to be the worst case scenario.

And in that, they will find yet another way to lose.

14 comments on “Are the Mets entering another Ice Age?

  • John Fox

    Charlie can you briefly explain the author’s beef with Gil Hodges, I can’t think of any derogatoryy things about him

    • CharlieH

      Well, it’s not so much a “beef,” as it is an image correction. He wonders about the circumstances of his breaking his contract with the Senators to come back to New York. Also, he thinks pulling Cleon Jones from the outfield during that game was the wrong move and is overinflated in terms of the team’s turnaround. Also, he’s not entirely convinced the whole “shoe polish” thing was on the up-and-up.

      • John Fox

        I’m not aware of Gil Hodges breaking any contract. He was released from his contract with the Senators when they were compensated by the Mets with a pitcher Bill Denehy and a $100,000, no small sum in those days. As to the other two incidents, it seems ridiculous to second guess a manager over a player change in a game over 50 years after it happened, especially since it worked out and as I remember Cleon Jones harbored no grudge against Hodges. As to the shoe polish, nobody knows. what happened exactly. I be if you examined any MLB Hall of Famer you could find considerably worse transgressions. For example, Jackie Robinson ran at full speed and bowled over infielder Davey Williams, who was hurt so bad his career ended effectively. Robinson was mad at Sal Maglie but took it out on Williams, yet it is haedly ever mentioned..

    • TexasGusCC

      As I read Charlie’s article, I was trying to figure out how someone that was born in 1976 can possibly shed any light on Gil Hodges’ image…

      As for the possibility of one of the Ice Ages referred to, as we all know, 2015 kind of snuck up on us as the Mets weren’t expected to be World Series bound. However, they were very good after that and had they kept Murphy could have continued because the pitching was there. Fast forward to 2022 and the 101 game winning team. That team was also very good with good pitching. But sometimes, stuff happens. This past year started with several injuries and the team just did not have it. Many times a team had a successful year but the following year has injuries and a lack of good fortune from the year before that make the next year pretty lousy. But, a good team can rebound.

  • Woodrow

    If a couple or three of our Baby Mets don’t come through it might be another Ice Age.

  • Mile W

    I think last season was an anomaly where they learned their lesson. I think it was just a speed bump. I do not think the Mets will enter an ice age with Stearns and Cohen.

    • TexasGusCC

      We were posting at the same time Mike, and I agree. The juggernaut that is in Los Angeles also got bumped early in the playoffs. I believe that it is important for a team to believe in its players and not overreact and reach for something that doesn’t make sense. Both the PCA trades and Ruf were stupid the minute they were made. One was for an underperforming rental ands the other for a player no better than the one they sent away and added prospects. It’s important for the Mets to recognize their faults. Obviously, they lacked pitching. That was the biggest variable. Their run differential was better than Arizona, so fortune obviously plays a huge part. They lost Diaz, Verlander, Scherzer and Quintana early on. That’s your ace, #1, #2 and #4 starter. Of course they were behind the 8 ball, and if that happens again they will be bounced early again: that’s just reality. The Dodgers got bounced because all the top starters got hurt. It showed.

  • Dan Capwell

    Gil Hodges didn’t like Nolan Ryan and Amos Otis, so there is that. Had he lived however, it’s hard imagining that M. Donald ever would have gotten the type of control that he did in the mid-1970’s.

    But without the “Midnight Massacre,” there is probably no complete collapse in 1979 and no shot at Darryl Strawberry in the 1980 draft. So the first piece in the eventual 1986 championship might never had come here.

    The real Ice Age, IMO is the entire Jeff Wilpon era. His heavy handed mismanagement of the team hung over every accomplishment like a lingering fart. That’s why any success they did have was always fleeting.

    Now that there has been a fumigation, my hope is that the team is finally heading towards that elusive sustainable success.

    • Brian Joura

      He also thought Jim Fregosi was worth trading for. Yeah, that’s tied up in the Ryan deal but in his one-plus year with the Mets, Fregosi posted a (-0.2) fWAR. Even Robinson Cano posted a 1.8 fWAR in his time with the Mets.

      I read a quote from Hodges once about how Fregosi was a great player when he was managing the Senators. Yeah, he was. But that was over three years ago and Fregosi had fallen off a cliff. Here’s the quote I did find:

      “You always hate to give up on an arm like Ryan’s,” Hodges said today. “He could put things together overnight, but he hasn’t done it for us and the Angels wanted him. I would not hesitate making a trade for somebody who might help us right now, and Fregosi is such a guy.”

    • ChrisF

      “The real Ice Age, IMO is the entire Jeff Wilpon era. His heavy handed mismanagement of the team hung over every accomplishment like a lingering fart. That’s why any success they did have was always fleeting.”

      Truer words have never been spoken.

  • Mile W

    The ice age was game seven in the 2006 National League Championship series with the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth inning with a three and two count. The bat was frozen on Beltran’s shoulder.

    • TexasGusCC

      Ouch! Mike, it was a perfect pitch curveball….

      • Mile W

        Yeah, Wainright’s curve. One of those moments that sticks with you.

  • NYM6986

    Sign Alonso to a long term deal and move on. Then get him some protection in the batting order. With 10 more wins we would have made the playoffs. We can certainly do that in 2024. Let the deals begin.

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