The New York Mets are trying to sell their fanbase on their contender status, but until they overhaul the offense, they can’t truly contend for anything.
The New York Mets—during a season in which the entire franchise has preached “now” as the time to take the next step toward contention and make the postseason—are selling their entire fanbase false hope as the club fails to improve its roster in meaningful and significant ways in order to achieve the self-stated goal.
During a season in which the Mets have a legitimate chance to grab a Wild Card berth in a mediocre National League and even have an outside shot of besting the Washington Nationals for the NL East division crown, the front office has sat on its hands since the the beginning of November after the signing of Michael Cuddyer—the move that was supposed to take this team over the top.
Entering Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee, Cuddyer—whom the Mets forfeited their 2015 first-round pick for—is batting a whopping .256/.310/.384 with an embarrassing .695 OPS. That’s not exactly the shot in the arm the Mets envisioned when they signed him to a two-year, $21 million deal and trotted him out as the difference-maker between going home early and playing October baseball.
But this isn’t about Cuddyer, his down year or the Mets giving up a first round pick. And it would be an absolute mistake not to mention the ridiculous litany of injuries the Mets have sustained this season, including but not limited to: SP Zack Wheeler (Tommy John surgery), 3B David Wright (spinal stenosis), catcher Travis d’Arnaud (fractured finger, hyperextended elbow) and 2B Daniel Murphy (hamstring, quad). That’s before we get into the 80-game suspension that former closer Jenrry Mejia is currently serving for taking a banned substance, and we didn’t even get to mention that lefty specialist Jerry Blevins (fractured forearm) is still sidelined after a line drive comebacker hit him square in the flesh.
Despite being up against it when it comes to injuries, the Mets are still right in it, and that’s where the frustration begins to set in and reach a point of no return. This team was not built to lose its captain or two of its best hitters in d’Arnaud and Murphy for extended periods of time and still be successful, yet the Mets enter Tuesday night just 1.5 games behind the Nationals. The Atlanta Braves, during a season in which everyone expected the club to be out of it long before the All-Star break as it rebuilds its roster, stand just two games out after 70 games with a 35-35 record. Even the Miami Marlins, who got off to an embarrassingly bad start and replaced their manager with their general manager in the dugout, are just 7.5 games back with an uneven 30-41 record. And the Philadelphia Phillies…well, we just won’t go near that dumpster fire.
Remember when the Mets had an 11-game win streak that saw a fire light a fanbase that’s been largely dormant since the club’s last playoff berth? This same team is just 23-32 since that concluded. That’s not a 90-win pace or anything close to it. General Manager Sandy Alderson has often pointed to run differential to be a real gauge of how an offense is faring, and his own team is not doing well by his preferred statistic.
Before the Mets fell out of first place during their current five-game losing streak, New York was the sole first-place team with a negative run differential. Since that period, the gap has widened and the Mets are now -16 in runs scored compared to their opposition and sit just one game over .500 at 36-35 entering the back end of June. That doesn’t look, sound or smell like a contender to me or anyone else with a pulse.
There are four players on this team with over five home runs on the roster. There is one player who has exceeded 30 RBI, and that’s shortstop Wilmer Flores, who checks in with an OPS at .688—lower than Cuddyer. One look at the team’s hitting stats paint the picture that anyone who watches this team consistently can paint from memory: There is no offense to dissect. With a pathetic .239/.302/.369 triple-slash and a team OPS of .672, the Mets are not trotting out a lineup worthy of contending. This is not even an average MLB lineup, and it’s laughable to think this team has its sights set on the postseason with the cast of characters taking regular at-bats.
Entering Monday’s off day, the Mets were 26th in runs scored (260), 28th in total hits (559), 28th in total bases (864) 27th in RBI (249) and 26th in OPS. New York is averaging just 3.66 runs per game this season, ahead of just Milwaukee, Seattle, Philadelphia and the Chicago White Sox—all underperforming and/or bad teams.
On the opposite side of the ball, Mets pitchers rank eighth in ERA (3.60), fifth in quality starts (43) and seventh in strikeouts (566). Trotting out a starting rotation that includes Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon and eventually Steven Matz should be anchoring a team that’s well above .500, but the failure to improve the offense in a meaningful and significant way has compromised how good this Mets team and pitching staff can be.
This isn’t about the Mets so badly misreading the Dillon Gee trade market that it wound up in a career-worst season for Gee before the team ultimately designated him for assignment. This isn’t about Terry Collins’ fatal flaw—his bullpen usage—as manager. This isn’t even about Curtis Granderson, miscast in a leadoff role and underperforming as a result, who has slugged at a sub.-400 rate since his arrival in New York.
This is about the Mets not taking the next step despite a vocalized desire to do so. This is about being forced to watch Gee and Jon Niese take the hill through their obvious struggles with better options waiting in the wings. This is about not making the trade to acquire offense when the infield consists of Dilson Herrera, Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada at three of the five positions. This is about a lineup where the first automatic out comes long before the pitcher’s spot is ever due up in the order.
Remember when Kevin Long’s hire as hitting coach was going to be the magic bullet that righted the ship? The future doesn’t sell forever, and the Mets told everyone they could that now is the time to contend.
We’re well into the 2015 season, and I’m still waiting to see a contender on the field. Right now, I see a great pitching staff that doesn’t get enough support from their offense to showcase their true brilliance.
And that’s a real shame for a team that doesn’t like to waste bullets.