The train wreck start of the 2017 Mets’ season is lumbering on and fans who had such high hopes are scratching their heads: how did this happen? We had our pitchers healthy and we made the playoffs without most of them in 2016.
We were starting this season relatively healthy and with a nice easy schedule spread out in front of us. We were going to get off to a fast start and displace the Nats as the best team in the East. Remember 2015? That would be us, worrying not about the Nationals but the Cubs, and maybe who would start Game 2 of the World Series.
Ouch. Reality hit us fast, and it was one that none of us wanted to hear: Sandy Alderson put together a very flawed team. The symptoms were there last year and we chose to ignore them behind the quiet confidence and hype of the 2017 Mets.
Our offense. In 2016 we were fifth in baseball in home runs and tied for 26th in runs scored. We had such little speed that an aging Jose Reyes became our spark plug. This team could not generate runs. The Baltimore Orioles were the only team to score a higher percentage of their runs via the long ball and in their ballpark most pop ups make it out on a windy day. Citi Field? Even with Alderson bringing in the fences twice there are few cheap home runs in Citifield.
So what did we do to improve this offense? In short, nothing. The Mets brass ignored five months of being a terrible hitting team and pointed to September, and their offensive numbers in that one month to suggest no improvements were needed.
But here is the insight the Mets ignored: when playing teams out of contention in September you are often facing minor leaguers trying to make the league club, veterans who have already put 150 plus innings on their arms, or sixth and seventh starters as fading clubs just try to ease out of the season. Come April, those pitchers are either back in the minors or refreshed… and our offense has been horribly exposed. We will hit the occasional home run. But we cannot generate runs or big innings. A two run deficit feels like, to quote the late great Hudson, ‘Game over, man.”
Our starting pitching. Here Alderson made the mistake of the off season (last year it was watching Daniel Murphy sign with the Nationals). Why Bartolo Colon, our number two pitcher in 2016 is gone and pitching for the Braves is baffling. While he did get a nice chunk of change (12.5 million) it was for one year. Colon led the Mets in innings (191.2) and wins (15) in 2016. He pitched to a 3.43 ERA. If the bullpen needed a break, he was on the mound eating innings (and whatever else he wanted). He was a beloved figure in the locker room and to the fans.
So naturally Alderson let him go without even attempting to keep him. Even though he knew Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, were coming off surgery, and Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman (who was also having surgery, on his non-pitching shoulder) had combined for slightly more than one hundred innings at the major league level between them. Even though Colon had effortlessly shifted to the bullpen when the Mets asked him to in 2015 and showed he could be effective in that regard as well. A terrible move that looks worse every game.
Our overall health. Injuries happen. But the Mets seem to have them all the time, and as soon as Collins or Alderson reassures us that someone will be back soon we cringe, knowing the shoe is going to drop. Is it the medical staff, or have the Mets put together a team of fragile players? Matz, Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores. Can these players be counted on? The Mets had actually penciled in David Wright to get a substantial number of games at third base. Are they paying any attention?
The manager. Oh, Terry Collins. Why don’t you bring in the same three relief pitchers every game? Jerry Blevins? Tied for most appearances in the National League. Hansel Robles? One behind. Fernando Salas? One behind Robles. Collins is the man who kills reliever’s arms (remember Jim Henderson?). Then you add the fact this team is playing with the intensity of a sloth on valium and you see why people have been shouting for his head.
That’s the bad news. The good news…it is April. Teams can turn it around. No matter how bad a team looks, nothing looks so bad that a winning streak can’t change the vibe, the intensity, the whole course of the season.
But this is the team. Steven Matz isn’t going to come in and be Clayton Kershaw. We aren’t going to start stealing bases and winning tight games with well timed hit and runs and excellent base running. Amed Rosario, age 21, is not going to change the dynamic of this team.
Interestingly enough, Sandy Alderson might accept this season for better or for worse because this will be a brand new team in 2018. Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce. They are combining to make approximately $60 million of our $150 million current payroll and none are signed for 2018.
Perhaps Alderson is willing to accept what we the fans are not:
This is a over-hyped 2017 team that is merely a bridge to 2018 when we’ll have many new young players led by names like Rosario and Smith, and a manager named TBD.