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Tuesday, 16 July 2019 02:05

What's There To Believe With These Mets?

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In a season where the Mets are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets, management is actually asking the fans to think more in the line with the 1973 “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets. The problem is that the Mets of 2019 do not resemble either of those teams.

It’s so easy to point to the bullpen as the problem. However, the Mets bullpen is actually not in any more of a state of dysfunction than any other team this year, except for the Yankees. Every team is having bullpen problems. The horrible state of the bullpen is AN issue but not THE issue.

Although the 1973 team was handicapped by injuries to just about every key player on the team and was in last place in August, the reason there was hope for that team was that once the team was again at full strength, the pitching rich team was exceptionally strong up the middle with Jerry Grote behind the plate, Bud Harrelson at short, Felix Millan at second base, and Don Hahn in centerfield. This year’s team falls far short of being strong up the middle, important especially when you build your team around your starting pitching.

Looking at this squad up the middle is where the start of the problem begins. The Mets went after a catcher and came up with Wilson Ramos. He has been decent at the plate but brutal behind it. He is a downgrade from Kevin Plawecki and even from Travis d’Arnaud who was not great defensively. The team touted Amed Rosario as their next great position player to arrive and the shortstop that would make everyone forget about Jose Reyes. Wilmer Flores was more adequate at shortstop and was certainly a better hitter. Rosario swings like he is chasing Wiffle balls in a strong wind. Robinson Cano may have been on a path to the Hall of Fame, but he hit a pothole. He has not only been clogging the middle of the lineup, but he has lost a few steps in the field around second base. Centerfield? I am finally convinced that Juan Lagares is not the answer. He is still somewhat good…but there is no room in the lineup for him because he can’t hit above the Mendoza Line. So what’s the point? And all of the other options for centerfield are not capable defensively.

The grim reality is that the team is severely flawed and was horribly constructed. The best catcher, although greatly improved (Tomas Nido), doesn’t hit enough to play everyday. The team’s best first baseman, to play at all, has to play left field because Pete Alonso is going nowhere. The best second baseman, is somewhere out in right field because Cano is there for some ridiculous reason. The best shortstop, is somewhere in the minor leagues because it sure as hell isn’t Rosario. Third base? Todd Frazier has had a bit of a resurgence but he is in no way an everyday player, certainly not an everyday third baseman. The outfield seems like the names were thrown up in the air and wherever they landed…there you go. Michael Conforto was actually condemned as a defensive player when he first arrived on the scene in 2015 and although he proved those skeptics wrong, he is definitely not a centerfielder.

Whose fault is all of this? Well, Brodie Van Wagenen could not have been expected to pull the lever and come up with three cherries…but who could have expected that he would come up with three lemons? Although he ignored the opportunity to keep Alonso in the minors for a month to buy service time, a supposed show of power, every other move he made has blown up in his face, except for J.D. Davis. The big trade for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano has failed miserably. Jeurys Familia has bombed. And where is Jed Lowrie? The biggest thing to blow up in his face was his “Come get us…” remark. Never put the target there for everyone to aim at.

The one true strength that we all believed would be reliable has been anything but. Nobody could have expected Jacob deGrom to duplicate his 2018 performance. And although he has had two or three hiccups, he has been the true ace that he is. But Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz have all been unreliable, have all been up and down, and have all appeared to have taken a step backwards. Three-fifths of the staff. The one surprise has been Jason Vargas who has been pretty damn good especially when you look at the troubles of the other three.

So now what? The Mets were 10 games below .500 at the All Star Break and they simply don’t have the right pieces to overcome such a huge deficit, no matter how much you want to “believe,” regardless that they came out of the break to take two of three from the Marlins. This team will not make you think about 1973. They don’t have players who are strong in their positions. They are very weak up the middle. There are too many things wrong with the make-up of the team to accomplish what that 1973 team did.

Do the Mets blow it all up? Yes and no. If you trade off any of the starting pitching chips, you will only have to spend lots of money to bring in other, likely lesser, starters for 2020. There is only one up and coming pitcher, Anthony Kay, and he may be another year away. So unless you can get a huge haul in return, it’s just not worth it.

There are a few untouchables that the team should be built around – Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto of the position players and Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard of the pitching staff. Further, McNeil should be at second base and Conforto should be in left field, his best position. If the organization still believe that Tomas Nido is the catcher of the future…then hand him the position now and get it over with.

The rest of the team, including Amed Rosario and Dom Smith, should be dangled and traded for whatever can be had in return. But the team cannot succeed without a strong defensive catcher, a superior shortstop, and a natural centerfielder. A team built on pitching, actually, ANY team, cannot successfully compete without those positions properly satisfied.

The trade deadline deals are not going to amount to much. Fans look at the Yankees acquisition of Gleybor Torres for the Cubs rental of Aroldis Chapman as what can be achieved. However, the Cubs were desperate. VERY desperate. The Yankees were able to take advantage of that. No team will be that desperate. Teams are holding onto their young, inexpensive, up and coming talent. So selling off the “dead weight” will do nothing more than yield a little something for use of a Mets cast-off.

The thing is the Mets have never had a clear, long-term plan. There is always the need for that “quick fix.” And the Mets are not in a position for the quick fix. Even the Yankees went through the rebuild and nurtured the young talent in the system and made smart, strategic acquisitions. And then they add that needed part in the stretch run. The Mets are a ways from that point.

The only thing to “believe” is that this team has some…some…good young talent in deGrom, Alonso, and McNeil that any team would love to have but that it is not going to come back from a second catastrophic June swoon and 10 games under .500 at the break. It is time to move on from some of the errors in the field, and with the construction of this team, and get younger, smarter, and more athletic. The team will never win the way it is now, THAT you can believe.

Read 2106 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 May 2024 03:19
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Alan Karmin is an award-winning journalist and author. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and spent most of his life growing up in the New Jersey suburbs. Alan's family were avid Brooklyn Dodgers fans and when the Dodgers moved west, the Mets became the team to root for. The Mets have always been a true focal point, Alan even wrote a term paper in high school to analyze what was wrong with the Mets. While at the University of Miami, Alan honed his craft covering the, gulp, Yankees during spring trainings in Fort Lauderdale for a local NBC affiliate, as well as the Associated Press and UPI. He broadcasted baseball games for the University of Miami, and spring training games for the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. New York Mets Mania is a forum for Alan to write about his favorite team and for baseball fans to chime in and provide their thoughts and ideas about New York's Amazin' Mets.