It is the easiest thing in the world to be critical. It’s even easier if the object of said criticism often deserves it.
The New York Mets have a loyal and passionate fan base who can cheer then curse then congratulate then crush their favorite team sometimes in the same inning. Thus is the nature of being a Mets fan–rooting for a team that can you bring to the throws of triumph or to the depths of despair sometimes in the same game. And with this fan base following the ebbs and flows of a 162 game schedule so closely, emotions can get raw with the smallest losing streak or prolonged slump.
But once a year, after the baseball season has ended and the temperatures fall, a Thanksgiving rolls around to remind us that we all have many things in our lives for which to be thankful. This includes the Mets, a team that has often been the subject of derision and shame, but an organization that has also given us some glory, stars, hope, and triumph in their relatively short lifespan. In no particular order, let’s examine some of the good the Mets have given us and could give us for years to come.
Its hard to start a story about what’s good with the Mets without beginning with our 2018 NL Cy Young award winner, Jacob deGrom. He had a season for the ages, with many experts calling his 2018 season one of the finest pitching performances in baseball history.
His 1.70 ERA was the sixth lowest since MLB lowered the pitcher’s mound in 1969. He led the league in ERA, FIP, ERA+ and HR/9 and is the only pitcher in MLB history with a sub-2.00 ERA, with at least 260 strikeouts, fewer than 50 walks while allowing 10 home runs or less.
In what might be his most significant achievements, deGrom allowed three or fewer runs in 29 straight starts and had 24 consecutive quality starts—both records. He was a near unanimous selection for the Cy Young receiving 29 out of 30 first-place votes.
But the Cy Young award does not begin with deGrom. In fact, the Mets as a franchise have had six Cy Young awards in its history: Tom Seaver winning it three times (1969, 1973 and 1975), Dwight Gooden (1985) and R.A. Dickey (2012).
Only four teams since the award’s inception in 1956 have produced more winners of the coveted award (Phillies, Braves, Red Sox and Dodgers). The Mets have been known throughout their history as a pitching rich organization, and that tradition should continue in 2019 with the likes of deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard among others.
The Mets have been fortunate as a franchise to have top-notch radio and TV talent. Starting in 1962 with Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner broadcasting both radio and television until today with Howie Rose on radio and the threesome of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez on TV, Mets fans have had the privilege to hear and watch some of the finest announcers in the business.
Nelson, Murphy and Kiner broadcast as a team until 1978. Cohen starting doing radio for the Mets in 1989 before moving to the TV booth in 2006. He was joined by Darling and Hernandez with Kiner announcing select games. It didn’t take long for the main triumverate to mesh and they are widely known as the best booth in baseball.
In 2017, The Guardian ranked the booths of all 30 MLB teams with the Mets trio finishing first. On November 18, 2018, Cohen and Hernandez were inducted in the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame.
Past broadcasters of note for the Mets include Gary Thorne, Tim McCarver, Fran Healy and even Tom Seaver. Four Mets announcers have gone on to receive the coveted Ford C. Frick award, an honor given annually by the National Baseball Hall of Fame to those broadcasters who have made “major contributions to baseball”. The four are Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson, Tim McCarver and Buck Canel,who broadcast Mets games in Spanish in the 1970s.
The Mets minor league system took a nice step forward in 2018. After having zero prospects on MLB.com’s list of top 100 prospects after the 2017 season, the Mets had four following the 2018 campaign. They are Andres Gimenez , Peter Alonso, Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn.
From a near barren farm system, the Mets now have the 19th ranked system according to Baseball America and the 17th most valuable according to Fangraph.
Gimenez has ascended quickly in the last year, starting at Low-A ball at Columbia in the South Atlantic League in 2017 all the way to St. Lucie (High-A Ball) to start 2018. He received a mid-season promotion to Double-A Binghamton. Then off to the Arizona Fall League to finish this year.
Interestingly, Gimenez was about five years younger than the average Binghamton player but held his own both offensively and defensively. The 20-year old shortstop played 37 games against his ‘elders’ with 38 hits, 16 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He can spray the ball all over the field with developing gap power.
Peter Alonso continued to show off his power in the Arizona Fall League where he was the talk of Scottsdale after he launched a home run off a 103-mph pitch by Blue Jays’ prospect Nate Pearson. In another game, the first baseman had four hits and became the first player in the AFL to drive in six runs in 2018.
Overall, the 23-year old first baseman had 36 home runs in 2018 tying him for the most in the minors. His slash line at Triple-A Las Vegas was an impressive .260/.355/.585 with a .941 OPS. Many were surprised when Alonso was not called up in September when the rosters expanded especially after his minor league teammate, Jeff McNeil, was promoted to the big club and flourished.
Alonso certainly should be called up some time in 2019 as some have deemed him the best offensive prospect the Mets have had in years.
Kelenic is an 18-year old outfielder who has been described as a five-tool player with tremendous upside. After tearing up the Gulf Coast Rookie League, Kalenic was promoted to Kingsport in the Appalachian League.
Dunn is a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher. He posted a stellar 2.36 ERA for High-A St. Lucie before being promoted to Double-A Binghamton. His 2018 performance enabled him to win the Mets Sterling Award for Pitcher of the Year.
And finally, as we look at the Major League roster in hopes of finding hope and giving thanks, we will look at those Mets who had a strong second half in 2018.
Few players on any team had the impact Jeff McNeil had when he was called up to the Mets. His performed so well that many feel he should have done better than his sixth place finish in Rookie-of-the Year voting. His slash line for the second half was .328/.384/.495 with an .852 OPS. Met general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has already told reporters that McNeil is penciled in as next year’s starting second baseman.
Zack Wheeler had a very impressive second half. His 1.68 ERA during this span was even lower than Jacob deGrom‘s. He went 9-1 in 75 IP with a 0.81 WHIP and 4.87 K/BB in 11 starts. Wheeler for the entire year was worth 4.1 fWAR, had the best HR/9 and best walk rate of his career.
The Mets will have three strong starting pitchers to start their rotation in deGrom, Syndergaard and Wheeler for 2019.
Most agree that the best offensive performer for the Mets in 2018 was Brandon Nimmo. The 25-year-old outfielder with the ubiquitous smile had a breakout season for the Mets slashing .263/.404/.483 in 140 games. In the second half of the season, he was red hot from July 20 through August 31 where he hit .313/.426/.531.
Unfortunately, his strong second half was briefly halted by a bone bruise to his left index finger suffered after getting hit by a pitch causing him to miss 11 games. When he returned in September, he showed his excellent plate patience with a 26.6% walk-rate and .468 on-base percentage for the entire month.
With Yoenis Cespedes‘s return date unknown and Juan Lagares recovering from another injury, Nimmo will be an important anchor in a the outfield next year for the Mets. Michael Conforto‘s strong finish is another reason to be optimistic about the Mets outfield offensive production.
The front office and management are harder to have hope for, but not impossible. Throughout Met history, we have seen the Midnight Massacre (where we actually traded Tom Seaver and others), Bernie Madoff, and more medical misdiagnoses than seem reasonable.
That is just the tip of the iceberg, but often the left had no idea what the right hand was doing. However, it is not unfair to say that all franchises have their problems.
The hope is that their new general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, will correct some of the ills that front office has suffered. He seems intelligent, articulate and understands the machinations of MLB very well from his years as an agent.
The fact that he has no front office experience should not dissuade Mets fans. The fact that ownership went outside-the-box for this hire speaks volumes. One can only hope that Van Wagenen can improve the atmosphere of the Mets front office that has often been polluted from ownership on down.
To conclude, a little perspective as to why we should be thankful. In 2019, The New York Metropolitan Baseball Club will begin its 58th year in existence.
They began as a hybrid, the reincarnation of NL baseball in New York after two NL teams fled to California after the 1957 season. They started playing in 1962 and came to be known as lovable losers with 120 losses. Yet, somehow this neophyte just in its eighth year of being won a World Series in 1969.
All told the Mets have won six National League East titles, five pennants and two World Series. They made the playoffs three other times as a wild-card. All told they have made the playoffs nine times in 57 years. They have been to the World Series five times, more than any other expansion team in MLB history.
The Mets continue to have top flight announcers on both radio and TV. Their farm system, although not exactly stocked with talent at all levels, does have some high-end talent. The major league roster has top flight pitchers and improving young position players in Nimmo, Conforto, McNeil and Amed Rosario. The front office is being headed by a new general manager who could turn out to be anything—a bust or a godsend, but early indications look positive.
It’s Thanksgiving, a day where criticism can at least give way to optimism as we reflect on a team that has had it’s share of Cy Young winners and post-season appearances. Like or not, we root for a baseball team that can you make you want to tear your hair out and shut the TV off due to disgust one night, yet the very next day you’re watching again.
This is the life of a Mets fan, but through it all we should give thanks for a franchise that has produced entertainment and tears of joy for so many with many positives to look forward to in the coming years.
Here’s hoping that you and yours have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.