Before the 2015 season began, the Mets were expected to be fully capable of competing for a playoff spot. They’ve done just that – just not how they were expected to.
This was supposed to be the season of the New York Mets.
David Wright, the Captain, was supposed to lead the charge. The elite starting pitching staff was supposed to feature the flame-throwing Zack Wheeler at the back end. Ruben Tejada was supposed to be designated for assignment 12 times before Spring Training began. Michael Cuddyer, the team’s marquee free agent addition, was supposed to be the solution for the gaping hole in left field that has existed since before the forgettable Jason Bay signing. Jenrry Mejia, after an electrifying first season at the back end of the bullpen as the Mets’ closer, was supposed to come back even better in the same role. It was supposed to be Travis d’Arnaud’s breakout season.
None of that has happened, and on August 13, the Mets are still 3.5 games ahead of the Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East.
Though finally on his way back, Wright hasn’t played since April. Wheeler is not due back until mid-2016 because of Tommy John surgery; he didn’t throw a single pitch in 2015. Tejada, who suddenly transformed into the player he showed he was capable of being during the 2011 season, has once again become the regular shortstop. Cuddyer is playing the role of coach as a part-time player. Mejia, who can kiss his Mets career goodbye, has been suspended for a total of 242 games after being caught twice for the same PED. And d’Arnaud has been good when he’s been in the lineup, but that’s exactly the problem. Entering Thursday’s game against the Colorado Rockies, d’Arnaud has appeared in just 28 of the Mets’ 114 games.
There is more: Jerry Blevins (forearm) is lost for the season. Josh Edgin and Jack Leathersich, both internal options to serve in Blevins’ role before the veteran ever arrived in New York, have each had Tommy John surgery since Blevins’ arrival. To say that the Mets have had to work to get here would be like saying Carlos Beltran taking the hanging curveball—down the middle—from Adam Wainwright to end the Mets’ 2006 World Series bid was no big deal.
Let me paint this picture another way: The Mets have not played meaningful August games since 2008. New York has not been to the postseason since that ill-fated 2006 season. Watching this group get seven or eight shutout innings from their starter only to lose 1-0 games was becoming a regularity. Now, instead of having to live in that miserable reality, the Mets—and their fans—are preparing for the playoffs. Considering the circumstances, it’s nothing short of amazing.
After sporting one of the worst offensive attacks in all of Major League Baseball through the first few months of the season, the Mets added emphatic reinforcements that sent a clear message that the team was going for it.
First was the trade for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson in late July, two veterans who could help set a tone where the Mets needed it. Shortly after that, New York pulled off a surprising acquisition for Tyler Clippard to beef up the bullpen, a move that proved to be a necessity rather than a luxury. Following an emotional roller coaster of an evening that had Carlos Gomez almost returning to Flushing, Wilmer Flores in tears and Wheeler pledging his allegiance to the Mets, Alderson removed the glass and sounded the fog horn. The call was for Yoenis Cespedes, newest New York Met.
It was the biggest trade deadline deal since the Mets acquired Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson. Yes, a team in New York had its two most notable mid-season deals separated by more than a decade, a stunning fact in and of itself. And while Cespedes’ unique contractual situation makes it hard to envision the Mets having him beyond just the extent of the 2015 season, there is something to be said for simply enjoying the moment for a fanbase that hasn’t experienced this excitement in quite some time.
This is a roster that has undergone a complete and utter transformation without losing sight of its goal. Boasting two of the best starters in all of baseball in Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey is just the start of the monster that should have opposing teams scared. Pairing those hogs with budding arms like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz should have those same teams looking for the nearest department store and public bathroom in order to change their pants.
Now, with the cavalry having arrived and this team’s belief in itself being backed by the front office, the Mets have taken a psychological step forward in realizing what was previously pure fantasy. And while the club is still dreaming of the playoffs for now, it’s a much more tangible concept than it was when John Mayberry, Jr. and Eric Campbell were serving as middle of the order ‘threats’ in what was effectively a Triple-A lineup.
The Mets still have a lot to prove over the final seven weeks of the season, and the Nationals aren’t going to just fold like a bad hand at the poker table. New York and Washington face off for games 160, 161 and 162 of the season, and there’s no doubt that both sides would prefer to learn their direction before those appear on the schedule.
Although the path has been filled with twists and turns, the New York Mets have arrived at their expected destination right on time.
All aboard the 7 train.