As Mets fans we’ve experienced so many trials and tribulations over the years, that we’ve sort of become hardened and accustomed to it all. We’ve become seemingly numb to any and all bad news that afflicts the team with such bizarre, dramatic, and alarming regularity. No matter how well or how good things may be going for the Mets, many of us remain in a perpetual guarded state – always on the lookout – waiting for that inevitable ax to fall or shoe to drop. It’s a part of who we are as Met fans, always hopeful, yet always vigilant as well.
So of course after an exciting 11-1 start to the season, that had most of us jumping out of our skins and in an ecstatic state of euphoria, it was only a matter of time until we were doused with a bucket of ice cold reality as the Mets went on to lose 11 of their next 17 games. The final dagger to the heart in that stretch of games – being swept at home at the hands of the lowly (or not so lowly) Atlanta Braves.
“It’s part of a long baseball season to have ups and downs,” manager Mickey Callaway said following Thursday’s embarrassing 11-0 loss to the Braves. “The main thing we have to do is continue to do the same things we did when we were going well, and eventually we’ll come out of it.”
“That’s where processes come in, and routines, and making sure that you’re taking care of everything you can possibly take care of, so you can go out there and have confidence whether you’re going good or bad,” Callaway said. “I’ve seen that from these guys. We’re just not on the winning side right now. And if we keep on doing that, we’re going to be just fine.”
I wish I could believe in Mickey’s outward enthusiasm and brimming confidence. But honestly, I’ve been down this road too many times before, and the truth is I have some real concerns and reservations about this team right now and I’m not in the mood to sugar-coat any of it.
Losing three straight to the Braves is one thing, it’s a long season and there will be many good and bad stretches along the way, But it’s the way our team lost that really bothers me. The Mets were outscored 21-2 in the three-game series and were nearly no-hit in the finale, but worse than that I saw a team that was uninspired, drab, and oftentimes lackadaisical.
The last remaining image from yesterday’s drubbing was watching Amed Rosario failing to run out a grounder late in the game for like the third time in that series. It was totally unacceptable of course, but it also reveals that there’s no fear of being held accountable and that was supposed to be Mickey Callaway‘s mantra for the 2018 season – accountability. Where is this accountability, have you seen it? Because I haven’t.
Now let’s not hang the blame for these last two weeks on the youngster Rosario. While I wish he was producing at better than a .222/.263/.300 clip, he’s merely a small part of an overall under-performing roster that desperately needs some drastic changes if they are honestly intent on a legitimate postseason run.
But besides moving around some warm bodies between the big-league team and their lower levels, it’s time to start seeing all that accountability the Mets were eagerly shoveling around back in Port St. Lucie.
Here are three simple moves that Sandy Alderson should consider, moves that will not only hammer the accountability message home but will also improve the team as well.
1. No Way, Jose…
First thing’s first, it’s time to cut bait with Jose Reyes and his abhorrent .139 batting average and .403 OPS. It was a mistake bringing him back in the first place and I would rather have a younger and better Gavin Cecchini in that dugout right now. Cecchini is currently sporting a .329/.386/.506 batting line for Las Vegas.
2. Let Nimmo Play
Even if it means moving Jay Bruce to first base and sending Adrian Gonzalez to the bench, we have to get Brandon Nimmo into the lineup on a regular basis. The former first-rounder might actually have the best on-base tools in the organization and squandering his league-leading .478 OBP on the bench is sacrilegious. The best Mets lineup is one that has Nimmo leading off, and it will be refreshing to have someone that actually runs hard to first base all the time.
3. Sign Montero
Three weeks ago, I argued against signing Montero because I thought Jose Lobaton could hold down the fort until Kevin Plawecki returned from the DL. I was wrong as Lobaton failed to meet even the most minimum of expectations both offensively or defensively. Hey Gary, this is what a real net-negative looks like. Signing Miguel Montero might only be a small improvement, but he’s solid defensively, still has some pop left in that bat, and he’s not Jose Lobaton.
Those moves should help and add some immediate relief and spark to a team that desperately needs a kick in the pants right now, but those moves alone provide just a small dose of improvement and what the Mets really need is for the veterans to start carrying their weight.
Okay I’ll say it, Matt Harvey has no business being on a major league roster right now. I’d love to see the Mets demote him to the minors, but I’m also well aware that he along with his agent Scott Boras will make a big stink about it and create a huge distraction. But seriously, something’s gotta give, Harvey is chucking batting practice when he’s on the mound.
Jason Vargas is beginning to scare me. He allowed six earned runs on 11 hits in 4.2 innings yesterday, and suffered his second loss in as many starts. The veteran southpaw has now allowed 15 earned runs, including five homers, in 8.1 innings as a Met. Certainly not the way anyone expected him to perform, fresh off his new two-year, $16 million dollar contract.
I don’t know what to make of Zack Wheeler or Steven Matz anymore. Neither of them have been able to show any consistency and both are maddening as hell. Matz and his 4.98 ERA may even be in danger of losing his spot in the rotation, and if it were up to me I’d already replace him with Seth Lugo or even Corey Oswalt.
Both Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce have to do more than their current sub-.250 batting averages and sub-.700 OPS on offense. If they don’t start performing the way they’re capable of, it’s going to be a terribly long season.
It’s hard to believe that a team that began the season as solidly as the Mets, would still have so many legitimate concerns. That said, it hasn’t been all bad. When the going gets tough it’s easy to point out all the negatives and gloss over some the things that are actually going right for the team. So let me end this on a positive note and give some major props to the following four players:
1. Asdrubal Cabrera is performing at an astonishing .900+ OPS level which actually ranks second among all National League second basemen. I thought he’d be better served in a reserve role back in the spring, but he’s made me a believer. That $8 million dollar option keeps looking better and better.
2. Yoenis Cespedes is making all of his hits count and his 26 RBIs currently lead the league. He’s still the most dangerous bat in the Mets lineup and a force to be reckoned with. Although the strikeouts are utterly alarming, .
3. Todd Frazier may have cooled off some, but he has a knack for coming through in the clutch and is still boasting an impressive .389 OBP and .835 OPS. He’s been a huge upgrade defensively at the hot corner and is second on the team with 17 RBIs.
4. Jacob deGrom is the best right-handed starter in the league right now and owns a scintillating 1.87 ERA along with a 0.994 WHIP and 11.9 strikeout rate. Mets dodged a bullet with the MRI results on his hyper-extended elbow, and he’s projected to make his next start on Monday.
I do believe in this team and I know they have the talent to push all the way into the postseason. But we really need to see a renewed focus on the little things like always running hard, playing crisp defense, pitching more aggressively, and becoming better situational hitters. The best teams in baseball usually have a solid grasp of those four areas and it doesn’t cost anything to fix.