August 3, 2020

Monday Mets: Are You Ready For The Summer?

As the Mets limp towards the end of the beginning of summer, let’s try to understand what’s happened in the first three months…

The internet is a funny place, isn’t it? I had an idea for this week and went online to do some research to see if there was anything to it (there wasn’t), and instead I got to re-live the transformation of the first 3 months of the Mets season. It was somewhat reminiscent of Lon Chaney Jr.’s transformation into the Wolf Man in The Wolf Man, as well as, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.

Those first couple of weeks were something. The love for this team was coming from everywhere. There were articles online talking about how well this team was put together, how every move that Mickey Callaway made was perfect, and how the Mets hot start was likely not a fluke.

And then the injuries and the losses started happening. And Jason Vargas. And Hansel Robles. And Jose Reyes. And so many other guys who still haven’t played up to their abilities, or who have spent as much time on the DL as in the lineup, or who may just not have been that good to begin with. That’s when the internet turned ugly. Mets fans may love their team, but years and years of frustration, of experiencing heart break in all sorts of new ways, of coming up short, of living down to expectations…let’s just say that patience is not the Mets fan’s forte. Add to that, the plethora of online voices who take great joy out of a New York team’s failures, and there’s no shortage of reminders that the Mets aren’t good.

Not that we needed to be reminded of the team’s shortcomings. Watch a game and you’ll see it pretty quickly. Or, as with today’s game, an eventual win by the Los Angeles Dodgers, rather instantly. Twice.

So how did we actually get here. Before you read further, this is not a recap of the first few months, but a real question – what just happened?

The Mets came into the season with a question mark at every single position. Please read that again and let that sink in. Some players were trying to recover from a season (or seasons) plagued by injuries, a highly-touted rookie whose weaknesses had been exposed in his brief stint last year, and a slew of players who had shown signs of potential at various times in their respective careers, but could never perform consistently enough to erase doubts.

And you know what? For a couple weeks it worked. The Mets may not have won pretty in those first couple weeks, but they won. Then it all caught up to them. And now, instead of trying to zero in on a trade that might put them in prime position for a postseason run, all the talk is about wiping the slate clean, trading the best players in hopes of a full rebuild, and figuring out how to point blame the way that (now former Mets pitcher) Robles used to point his finger in the sky whenever he gave up a home run, which was fairly often.

Truthfully, finding blame in a situation like this is fairly pointless unless it yields a plan. Should we blame Callaway? Sure, he’s made some head-scratching decisions, and there was that lineup card snafu; at the same time, everything about this job is new to him, and as much as I wish he was innately better at it, that would be an unfair expectation. How about the players themselves? Not all the losses this year have been due to injuries and inability, some seem directly related to a lack of focus, a momentary lapse in fundamentals, and what seems like a pervasive appearance of being beaten no matter what the score is. It’s bad enough that their own fans expect the Mets to lose, but when the team looks like they are just trying to “not lose”, something is obviously wrong. I suppose we could lay blame on the new training staff. It’s not that they were supposed to stop all injuries from happening, but this season is playing out similarly to past seasons with Ray Ramirez and the other trainers, and that was not supposed to happen. Of course, it’s going to be popular to blame the GM, Sandy Alderson, and with good reason. He even blames himself. He put together a team based on “hoping for the best” and that’s obviously not what they’ve gotten. Beyond the current roster though, the lack of depth for a franchise that has desperately needed depth for some time now, shows a serious lack of forethought. For my tastes, it’s enough of a lack of forethought that I don’t believe in their ability to rebuild correctly. So a trade of their best players for promise of the future seems foolish to me.

And I would be remiss if I wrote about throwing blame around without mentioning the Wilpons. Let me be clear here. I don’t believe that the Wilpons are the dark cloud hanging over this team that everyone else thinks. Since Fred Wilpon took sole control of the team in 2002 (when Nelson Doubleday Jr. sold off his share of the team), the Mets have had their share of highlights. They spent some big money on some players. They’ve made it to the postseason a few times, and even the World Series, once. However, this franchise has never shown the lasting power that the fans have been craving. It’s so sad that when the Mets snuck into the 2016 postseason, briefly, it marked the first time they’ve had back-to-back years of postseason play since the turn of the century. As desperate as Mets fans are for their team to win the World Series (duh), I’m reasonably sure that fans would be somewhat appeased if they didn’t feel like the window of opportunity was always closing.

So there, that was cathartic. It’s the end of June, the Mets are bad and showing no signs of getting better, and everyone is to blame. Worse yet, there’s no clear way out of this hole. However, before you write off this team and this season entirely and start following the New York Liberty (they’re not so good, either), I do want to pass along one additional lesson I learned from my internet time travels experience…nobody really knows anything. As I mentioned earlier, after the first two weeks of the season, all sorts of people were ready to make October plans in Flushing, and then without much warning the season flipped. If there’s anything to love about the beginning of the summer, it’s that there’s still time for the season to flip back. I’m not pretending that it’s likely, but stranger things have happened. Right? As long as that possibility is there, I’ll continue to watch through the fingers covering my eyes, in hopes that people will be able to write articles about how the Amazin’ Mets pulled it together seemingly out of nowhere in 2018.