Top Banner Ads
The New York Mets spent all but a few days of the 2022 season in first place. The spending of owner Steve Cohen, the dealings of general manager Billy Eppler, and the infusion of a new thought process and back to "old school" baseball by manager Buck Showalter proved the recipe for an emergence from the doldrums of what had come to be expected of the recent Mets.
The team has surpassed expectations. And, yet, the keyboard experts on social media are calling the team lifeless, choke artists, playing without heart, hyper-analyzing every move made, every instance of failure magnified. Rather than the post season excitement exhibited by Toronto Blue Jays fans, Seattle Mariners fans, San Diego Padres fans...Mets fans and media alike are ranting about the Mets as if they had just suffered a collapse of epic proportions.
You want to talk about collapse? Let's do that.
If anyone had said that the Mets and Yankees would both be in first place at the same time after Labor Day weekend, most fans not only would be shocked, but pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately while the two teams are still sitting at the top of their respective divisions, the double-digit leads have dwindled. While the Yankees seem to have squandered what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in the American League East, the Mets have seen a 10 ½ game lead in the National League totally slip away.
Social media hounds are exuding feelings of gloom and doom. The usually calm and collected Aaron Boone has publicly come unglued, obviously feeling the pressures of having to maintain the Yankee prestige while vying for a championship. The fans and pundits don’t seem to care that the team is still in first place, even with a decimated roster whereby the only constant has been Aaron Judge.
Likewise, social media has been lighting up with harsh criticism of Buck Showalter and the Mets demise. In reality, Mets fans should be ecstatic that the team is in a pennant race at all. Just think about it…the Mets won 77 games in 2021. They have already won 10 games more than that with 24 games to go. They are on pace to win 103 games. Heck, if they only go 13-11 the rest of the way, they will still win 100 games for only the third time in history. The other two times? They won 100 in 1969 and 108 in 1986. The only two World Series Championships in team history.
I once wrote a paper in high school titled “What’s Wrong with the Mets?” My 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Baumann, was not happy about it, but she gave me a pass and permitted me to write about a subject that was apparently so important to me.
What I remember most about that project was reading everything I could get my hands on about the Mets. In those days, it was books and newspaper clippings. The books were great and I ended up with a nice little collection after it was all over. For the newspaper clippings, I had to have my mom drive me to the local daily newspaper – The News Tribune in Woodbridge, NJ – so that I could look at microfilm.
There was so much to look through and I was quickly scanning past most of the old papers, watching it fly past on the big screens in front of me. What I didn’t realize was that my mother also had her eyes fixated on the screens and, apparently, it got her dizzy because I suddenly heard a loud THUD from behind me. I turned to see two big guys tending to her, helping her to her feet.
I don’t why that story always makes me laugh. But what I learned over the years about my lovable Mets, was not really funny at all.
And if you are wondering what is actually WRONG with the New York Mets, you have to look a lot further than Michael Conforto having a horrible season, than Edwin Diaz not living up to expectations, than Jacob deGrom becoming a fragile commodity, and a rookie manager seemingly in way over his head. That is a reason for a bad season…a bad record. It is not even scratching the surface of what is so very wrong with this organization.
Fans love to scream about spending money and focus on that. Heck, it ain't about that. It is so much more. Because everything they do is just not normal.
Two men who are loved by New York Mets fans, enjoyed similar successes, and suffered similar frustrations. But each, eventually, received the respect and adoration that they so very much deserved.
Ralph Kiner and Gil Hodges crossed paths many times on the ballfields of Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, as teammates on the National League All Star team, and then both playing significant roles in New York Mets lore.
It was only a matter of time…and not long…before someone pulled out the “card” with regard to Marcus Stroman’s departure from the New York Mets.
Bias of any kind - race, religion, gender, etc. - is unacceptable in any realm, I despise any form of prejudice, bigotry, bias toward anyone or any group because they are deemed to be “different” or any reason for that matter.
In today’s times, people are so concerned with being politically correct, that they often over-compensate so as NOT to appear biased, when, at times, they are actually tipping the scales of bias in the other direction.
That being said...I am so damn sick and tired of people playing the “card,” whatever card it may be, when it is not justified, and there is no reality in what they are alleging. If there IS an issue with bias, prejudice, or bigotry by someone, then shame on them and they should be held accountable for that despicable behavior. But if someone is making a false claim for no other purpose than to further their own personal narrative and agenda, then, likewise, shame on them for being an opportunist and diluting the cause for righteousness.
Not even 24 hours after the final out of the final game of the 2021 New York Mets season, when the misery finally ended, manager Luis Rojas was cut loose…finally put out of his own misery. It is of little surprise, and even less consequence that Rojas didn’t survive this debacle of a season.
And, yes, it was a debacle. The team was brutal. Every player performed well below…WELL below…the expectations. Were the expectations unrealistic? Probably. Most of the expectations were for players who have had less than three years of providing evidence of their expected level of performance. So you have to wonder whether these players are actually CAPABLE of consistent high level performances year in and year out…or are these guys a team of “Super Joe” Charboneaus? Yeah…that’s right…you gotta go look that name up.
I have two tickets for the Friday night game on September 10 for the next Subway Series between the Mets and the Yankees at Citifield. Mets-Yankees. I can’t go because it’s my birthday and I had an opportunity to head to Miami and spend my birthday in South Florida and attend a University of Miami Hurricanes football game. So I have tried to hand the tickets off to friends. Mets-Yankees. Not a single person will take these tickets. Not a one…nay…nay…nay.
And you wanna know why? Because the team is just plain awful. It’s not that they don’t have talented players…because they absolutely do. This team has a roster loaded with talent. But they just haven’t performed very well. It’s that simple. Then to add insult to injury…or rather…injury to insult… the team was, and has been, operating at less than full strength for the entire season.
Remember when you were a little kid and you would brag to your friends and claim that your father was better than someone else’s father? “My dad’s better than yours…” Can you imagine the talk, the banter, the jabs going on in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse and in the infield during meetings at the mound?
Starting behind Steven Matz, returning for the first time as an ex-Met to Citifield, was Vlad Guerrero, Jr. (son of Vlad Guerrero) at first base, Bo Bichette (son of Dante Bichette) at shortstop, and Cavan Biggio (son of Craig Biggio) at third base. Sandwiched in between them was poor Marcus Semien at second base. What could he possibly add to the conversation with those three?
The three dads were pretty damn good ballplayers, all of them with great career numbers, two of them – Guerrero and Biggio – in the Hall of Fame.
I just saw a headline that read “MLB Celebrating the Greatest of All” in regards to the 2021 Major League Baseball All Star Game. Greatest of all? Come on. You’re kidding me.
I also have read in multiple places where fans, especially Mets fans, are claiming, and complaining, that Pete Alonso will have ruined his swing by participating in the Home Run Derby. Again…you’re kidding me.
As for Alonso, and anyone else who participates in a “home run derby,” it is absolutely absurd to think that someone’s swing will be affected. These players sport a swing that is geared to home run derby every game. Launch angles…exit velocity…linear weights…terms in 1971, 50 years ago, were associated with a NASA spacecraft launch are now the science behind hitting a baseball.
And it was 50 years ago, the 1971 All Star Game, that it truly was an exhibition of some of the “greatest of all” in baseball history. In that game, 21 players that went to that game in Detroit made it to the Hall of Fame.
Decimated by injuries, the New York Mets seem like they are playing spring training games rather than the regular season – young players who have little to no experience, older players who have long since been in the Major Leagues and are hanging on for one last hurrah, uniform numbers that are more fitting for football tight ends and wide receivers.
Out for the foreseeable future are: first baseman Pete Alonso, second baseman Jeff McNeil, third baseman J.D. Davis, centerfielder Brandon Nimmo, right fielder Michael Conforto…those of the starting eight position players. Then there are centerfielder Kevin Pillar, centerfielder Albert Almora, Jr., centerfielder Johneshwy Fargas…that’s right…the second, third, fourth-string centerfielders are all down and out.
The pitchers? Well, we had a scare, a nightmare actually, with Jacob deGrom. But, for now, it appears he is okay after his return for his five-inning stint this week after 10 days on the IL. However, the bad news is that the triumphant return of Noah Syndergaard will have to wait as he has had a setback that will derail his comeback for quite some time. Taijuan Walker was such a wonderful surprise and then he had the rug pulled out from under him. Carlos Carrasco is nowhere close to returning…if that is what you would call it since he hasn’t pitched yet for the Mets. Seth Lugo is still a ways away and then there is another missing former Yankee, Dellin Betances.
The Mets have been covering things up with a patchwork quilt.
Sometimes there are Mets memories that you have from childhood that just stick with you. It had been gnawing at me that I had a recollection that the Mets were forced to start all three catchers for a game. I asked some Mets buddies and nobody could verify it for me. But then, there is good old Baseball Reference. Dig deep, and thou shall find.
And what exactly made me start thinking about that again?
The Mets have gotten hit by the injury bug. Not only has Jacob deGrom landed on the Injured List, but Carlos Carrasco has yet to make his debut since arriving via a trade, Noah Syndergaard is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. So now 3/5 of the starting rotation is down. As for the regulars, J.D. Davis has been on the IL for the second time, and Brandon Nimmo has had to sit also for a second time thus far this season. And now Jeff McNeil is forced out of the lineup. Not to mention that Seth Lugo and Dellin Betances have both been MIA from the Mets bullpen.
Hence, it harkens back to almost 50 years ago. The Mets were primed to get back to the post season in 1972 when they made a blockbuster trade for Rusty Staub. And they thought they got a big-time third baseman when they stole All Star shortstop Jim Fregosi (LOL) from the California Angels. But before the season could even get started, Gil Hodges collapsed and died from a heart attack. It truly became a season to forget.
They were going to be the best rotation the Mets ever had. They were going to be the best rotation in Major League history. Flamethrowers…long, flowing hair…superhero nicknames…and now…not a single one is in the Mets starting rotation.
That’s right…with the announcement that Jacob deGrom has been placed on the Injured List with right side inflammation (that’s the current diagnosis), it means that the best rotation the Mets were ever going to have took the path of the last staff to garner that moniker – Generation K. The rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, Matz, Harvey…has seemingly turned into Isringhausen, Pulsipher, Wilson, and Jones.
In fact, the next one of the recent five to start at CitiField? The Dark Knight returns to Gotham in the black and orange of the Baltimore Orioles. Harvey, of course, was the first one to be cast off in 2018, after 2 ½ seasons of an inability to recover from the devasting loss in the 2015 World Series. He had returned from Tommy John surgery to be effective during the 2015 season before pushing the limit of his innings allowance and then was never showing any resemblance of his former self from the onset of the 2016 season.
The Mets have been victims of the pandemic…and the epidemic. The Mets had the start of their season postponed due to the effects of the pandemic hitting their opponent, the Washington Nationals. And it seems that the Mets have now been hit by the very same epidemic of poor hitting that has affected most of the rest of the Major Leagues thus far this season.
The Mets came into the season with questions about the pitching staff but the one “sure thing” was the power-packed offense that would be taking the field every day. However, other than the start of Brandon Nimmo, the Mets offense has been dreadful.
While the Mets were embarrassingly being swept by the Chicago Cubs, Ron Darling told the story of a comment Kris Bryant made during a pre-game press conference prior to his very first game at Wrigley Field in 2015: “My goal every game is to go out there and hit the ball in the air four times.” Not a single coach I had, and I had some pretty good ones over the years, ever said to me, “Hey Alan, try to hit the ball in the air.” Line drives were the ultimate goal. But with my speed, especially when I was hitting from the left side of the plate, I was just trying to put the bat on the ball and get it on the ground and through the holes.
As Darling said in a follow up to the quote of Bryant, the game has since changed. But has it been for the better?
Okay…stop…it’s ONLY ONE GAME. There are 161 more games to go. But the very first game of the season gives some real insight into what is different…and what is so wrong with baseball today.
I absolutely love the game of baseball because of the thought process. You had to think. You had to position yourself in the field, at the plate, decide which pitch to throw and why. Bring on the computer age. Sure…Davey Johnson was using a computer in the 80’s. But he also went with his gut. Would a computer put a guy like Kevin Mitchell at shortstop? Gil Hodges employed the McCovey shift back in 1969. But if a shift was employed, I recall many times when somebody would simply lay down a bunt…get on base…take what the defense gives you. Whatever happened to all of that? It’s better than striking out, isn’t it?
Jacob deGrom is a true victim in all of this nonsense. He was the least heralded…he really wasn’t heralded at all…among those elite five of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and him. In fact…he is the only one of the five left. Syndergaard will hopefully be back from surgery this season and the other three are successfully (for a while anyway) toiling elsewhere.