The Mets have a decision to make soon. They’ll have a shot to seriously get back in the Wild Card hunt with series against the Cardinals and Marlins looming over the next two weeks that should include a healthier Mets roster. But they also could make up no ground or fall back even farther in the race. If either happens, they’ll hit September with a choice: attempt a miracle run to the playoffs or pack it in and play for 2017?
It’s a tough decision because as this season has shown, making the playoffs is hard. It’s not a given with any amount of talent. But as the poker expression goes, it’s important to know when you’re beat. And the Mets are beat. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who in their heart of hearts believes the Mets can suddenly flip a switch, overcome the Pirates, Marlins, and Cardinals, beat either Madison Bumgarner or Clayton Kershaw in a one-game playoff, knock off the Cubs, win the NLCS, and win a World Series.
And what should make this all even easier to accept is there are so many benefits to looking towards in September instead of desperately clinging to playoff hopes. First, let’s start with the pitching. The young pitching is the key to any future success for the Mets, but it’s also been pushed to the limits over the last two seasons. Easing the final month workload of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz could greatly benefit their careers in 2017 and beyond. It also gives the team to get a glimpse of Gabriel Ynoa and Robert Gsellman in starting roles.
Which brings us to the young hitters. If the Mets don’t have a serious chance at the Wild Card, then the team needs to find a way to get Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo at least 4-5 starts a week. It doesn’t matter if the opposing starter is a righty or a lefty. There will be no greater opportunity with less pressure for these two hitters to show what they can do at the major league level. And it’s essential the Mets figure out exactly what they can do because Yoenis Cespedes might be gone in the offseason, Curtis Granderson cannot be counted on, and Jay Bruce has hit .231 over the last three seasons and isn’t getting younger. And to do this, Cespedes and Bruce might sit 1-2 times per week, and that’s okay. Playing Cespedes and Bruce to win 82 games instead of seeing what Conforto and Nimmo can do is a near-sighted decision.
And the same idea should be applied to the infield. T.J. Rivera should continue to play everyday to see exactly what he is. Travis d’Arnaud should catch as often as possible to end his season on a high note. Gavin Cecchini should be recalled and given at least a couple starts a week at shortstop or second base. The Mets should try some of their outfielders at first base. Everything should be experimented with.
Finally, the Mets need a manager who is willing to do all of this. So if this is the plan, Terry Collins needs to be on board, and if he wants to stick with veterans over young players, then some one else should finish the season at the helm. September may be a lost month for 2016, but it means a lot for 2017 and beyond, and the Mets should treat it that way.