Seeing the Chicago Cubs come into Citi Field and sweep the Mets in four games this past weekend was a tough pill to swallow.
Being swept in any series sucks, but it hurts even more so when it comes at the hands of a team that just a couple years ago, was a main competitor of yours.
Let’s take it back a little.
The Cubs, like the Mets, had success in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, going 85-77 and 97-64, respectively, but following the 2009 season, struggled mightily until they met New York in the NLCS in 2015.
This falls in line with the Mets. Great in 2006, good in ’07 and ’08 sans the collapses, and then bad from 2009-14.
These two teams endured several grueling, brutal and heart wrenching years in order to get back into contention, and it worked.
It seemed as though Chicago and New York would be squaring off against each other for years to come. Two separate super powers if you will.
Well, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way. The Cubs after losing to the Mets in the NLCS answered back with a World Series championship in 2016, and an NLCS berth the following year.
This team came into Queens this past weekend, and we saw on full display just how talented they still are.
This is a squad packed with young, homegrown talent, complemented with experienced veterans and a manager who plays the game smart. When they aren’t hitting the long ball, they are bunting, stealing and producing runs.
To me, it was a pipe dream. How did it go so wrong for the Mets? A team with a rotation that doesn’t have five aces like everyone thought they’d have at this point. A team that has aging superstars who can’t stay on the field and a ragtag bullpen that can’t get out of its own way.
I looked at the Cubs, and I saw cohesion. Players who jive well together, play an exciting brand of baseball and have the drive to win.
The Mets need to take a page out of their book, I thought to myself.
From top to bottom, they are functional. They have ownership who bought this team at the beginning of this decade and put one goal forth: winning a World Series championship.
They have one of the best general managers in the game in Theo Epstein, who not only got the Cubs a World Series ring in 2016 to end their drought of 108 seasons, but also did the same with the Red Sox in 2004 after they hadn’t won since 1918.
Say what you will about Joe Maddon, but the guy owns it as a manager. You can knock some of his in-game decisions, but he communicates with his players and instills a winning mentality in them.
And finally, on the field, you have strengths at every position, throughout the rotation and all the way back to the bullpen. The best part? DEPTH. Depth, depth and more depth.
When I was writing this article, I didn’t expect to dive too much into the Cubs, but if the Mets want to contend, this is what they have to do. They need to model the Cubs.
Is ownership going to sell the team? Probably not. No matter how much the fans call for it, no matter how the fanbase tries to boycott, it’s not going to happen.
They call the shots. If they love this team and they want a winning product year after year, they have to seriously revamp the team from top to bottom. A fresh general manager, scouts, manager and replenishing the farm system.
But most importantly, they have to spend properly. It’s been a topic beat to death, but it’s true.
I don’t think the Mets need to rebuild like they did earlier this decade. They don’t even really need to be completely like the Cubs and build from the ground up right now. But in the long run, it’s what’s going to work.
For now, they should start by building a team around starters Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, relievers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, infielder Amed Rosario, and outfielders Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo.
You then take advantage of next year’s free agent class and bring in veterans who are really going to make an impact, not a square peg to fit a round hole like Jay Bruce.
This is a market that should be taken advantage of. If the Mets can swing bringing in a couple upper echelon free agents, combined with really scouring free agency and adding solid depth pieces, they can be competitive again next year.
So for the Mets, be like the Cubs, and start being like them now. Begin by building from within and then complementing from then on. It’s a proven formula for success and one that can be accomplished if just a few alterations are made.
But it starts with ownership.