With more than two-thirds of a lost season complete, what are we rooting for?
This past weekend the Mets took two out of three games from the last place Miami Marlins. By the end of the series, the Mets found themselves firmly in fourth place in the National League East. Normally, this is nothing to write home about, or in my case, nothing to write a Monday Mets article about. At this moment, it’s become something to cling to. On July 31st, the Mets were only a half game ahead of the Marlins, and .001 ahead of them in winning percentage.
So there was a moment today when I found myself “rejoicing” (in relative terms) as Seth Lugo completed his first major league save. Never mind the fact that the team would need ornithologist-approved binoculars in order to see third place. Never mind the fact that rooting for your team to win enough to finish fourth, is like…well…there’s no analogy needed to indicate how sad of a statement that is. Yet, here we are.
So with about seven weeks left, I’ve been trying to think of some other things that Mets fans can root for in order to salvage some entertainment value in a season so full of disappointment that such disappointment can be expected which, in essence, nullifies the meaning of the word. Our hopes and expectations for this team are non-existent and thus cannot be unfulfilled. The Mets season has been so bad that they’ve ruined the word “disappointment”.
In order to restore the possibility for disappointment, or even fulfillment (date to dream), here are three things we can hope for in these final 47 games:
- The return of David Wright – About 7 months ago I wrote about the the implications of a David Wright return. At the time, the Mets had not signed Todd Frazier, so some of the points I tried to make no longer hold much water. When the Mets did sign Frazier, the Wright-related thought was a hope that the Mets would not need him to return, and instead could be appreciated for its historic significance and perhaps as a jolt in the arm for team spirit. It is actually conceivable that Wright will return to the majors this year. While he did play in his first minor league rehab game on Sunday (for Class-A St. Luce) it’s definitely not a forgone conclusion that Wright will return to Flushing this year, or ever. I can’t say the Mets “need” him at this point, because there’s nothing that a single player can do for this team, even less likely a single player who hasn’t played in the majors since 2016. At least the pressure’s off. And if he returns, he will bring it will bring a smile, or at least an 80’s movie “good-for-him” grin, to the faces of many fans, and not even just Mets fans. Furthermore, as I’ve mentioned in previous writings, at this point there would be something kind of neat about watching Wright and Jose Reyes share an infield again. Yes “kind of neat” is the best term I can use to describe it.
- The return of Michael Conforto – It’s been about a year since the young, talented Mets outfielder swung and missed at a Robbie Ray fastball and ended up in a heap with a destroyed shoulder. At the time, speculation about his future was all over the place. Some immediately put a four-to-six month timeline until he’d return to playing, while others wondered if he’d ever play again or at least play at the same talent level. In other words, nobody really knew anything, and still the idea of Conforto’s once-promising career never reaching it’s full potential was plausible, at the very least. Fast forward to this season…Conforto returned in early April, about a month earlier than had been planned. At this point in his career, Conforto should be really coming into his own. Instead, he regressed to his subpar 2016 showing, as opposed to his All-Star 2017 display. For those who were expecting, or were at least afraid of, Conforto’s inability to return to his old (yet still young) self, this was an affirmation. And over the course of the first few months of the year, Conforto’s early-season struggles transitioned seamlessly into season-long struggles, until recently. Over his past 15 games, Conforto has batted .288 (about .050 more than his season average), with a .393 OBP (about .040 higher than his season average), and a .462 slugging pct. (about .060 higher than season average). With 7 weeks remaining in the season, Conforto has the opportunity to use this year as an EXTENDED extended spring training. If the Mets can close out the season with some signs of promise Conforto, they can head into 2019 with actual hope.
- Finishing .500 – Alright, I’ll admit this is a bit far-fetched. The Mets current winning percentage is .426. While that may not sound that far off, the Mets would have to go 32-15 (.681) in their final 47 games. This may seem possible, yet only the Red Sox have played at that level over the course of this season. Or another way of looking at this, winning 2 out 3 games in every series for the rest of the season would still not be good enough. So yes, achieving a .500 record this year is like a team that just barely squeezes into the second wild card trying to win the World Series. So, let that be the reach. Let that be a source for inspired play the rest of the way. Let that be a reason to keep watching before we turn our backs on 2018 and just let it be.
Five months ago, the Mets were preparing to begin their drive towards meaningful baseball in September and beyond. Instead it’s the middle of August, and in order to play anything meaningful, the Mets will have to redefine their goals.