It’s been almost 2 months since Brandon Nimmo and JD Davis left a game early against the Phillies and soon found themselves on the Injured List. This was the beginning of the Mets losing regular starters to injuries, and was also NOT the beginning of the Mets losing games. Now, it looks like some of those regulars will be returning just in time.
We all know that the Mets aren’t strangers to injuries. There was a New York Times article just 27 games into the season titled “For the Mets, It’s Injury After Injury, Year After Year”. That was 27 games into the 2017 season. From an Injury List perspective, things haven’t changed much since then. From a team depth perspective, however, things have been quite different in 2021.
You might think from the setup of this story, that the Replace-Mets have stepped up and led the league in key offensive categories. That hasn’t happened. What has occurred, however, is winning. The Mets have used a “next person up” mentality for over 7 weeks now. Shortly after the injuries to Nimmo and Davis, two other key members of the lineup, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, went out with injuries of their own. The Mets had already been without Luis Guillorme, and even backup guys Albert Almora and Kevin Pillar missed some time. And that’s not all; a replacement for those replacements, Johneshwy Fargas soon joined the others on the IL. Eventually, even the Polar Bear himself, Pete Alonso, made a cameo appearance on the list. Even the hitters who’ve managed to avoid the injuries haven’t exactly been scaring opposing pitchers. Despite all this, or maybe even because of all this (and Mets pitching, of course), the Mets have gone 27-18 and have maintained their first place spot in the NL East the whole time. And while I like to joke that they’ve done it with smoke and mirrors, they’ve really done it by relying on different players each night, and the confidence in the entire team that somebody (or somebodies) will come through. The fact that these somebodies were deemed nobodies on other teams hasn’t made a difference to them, and has made it all the better for the fans.
For the romantic in us, it’s been enticing to imagine the Mets gritting out the entire season relying on castaways, has-beens, never-will-be’s, and a few potential All-Stars. There may have been some who were wondering if the Mets would have some tough decisions to make when their key players returned. For the more practical fans, however, it’s really just been a matter of time until the reality of the situation caught up to the team. Over the past 5 games, we may have seen the Replace-Mets’ limitations. This does not mean that without the expected starters (like Nimmo, Davis, McNeil, and Conforto) the Mets would be headed towards an Arizona Diamondbacks-like losing streak. I think the team’s pitching, coaching, and the Bench Mob (or Starting Mob?) themselves would be able to avoid that. However, after scoring only 9 runs in 5 games, it’s easy to think that the magic is starting to run out.
Fortunately, it seems like the long-lost starters will be making their respective returns shortly. McNeil should be activated in time for today’s double-header against the Braves, Conforto and Nimmo seem likely to return next week, and while Davis is still at least a few weeks away, there appears to be some progress in his situation as well.
It’s hard to know what to expect from any of these guys, really. They weren’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball before they got hurt (although Nimmo was easily the most reliable of them), and significant time away may not help with that. Still, they were the expected starters for obvious reasons, and it’s reasonable to think they’ll be able to boost a lineup that appears to be in need of some boosting.
For those familiar with the story of Chanukah (or Hanukkah, or myriad other spelling options), the famed oil that was supposed to last just one day and instead carried on for eight crazy nights (or regular nights, I wasn’t there), held on just long enough for new oil to be produced. The lights may not be totally out on the players the Mets have had to rely for the last nearly 8 weeks or so, they’re just starting to dim. Fortunately for the Mets, they’ll soon be able to turn to some familiar faces to reignite their offense and continue their winning ways.