The Mets need to commit

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September 5, 2017 by jessepell

(Courtesy of Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)

Let me get this off my chest: I’m a Mets fan. Let me explain.

Growing up near Boston, I didn’t know what it was like to root for a bad team. From 2005 to 2011, every New England team from the major four sports won a championship. Then I went to college in the Evil Empire State. I was behind enemy lines surrounded by fans of the Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks. But in the middle of it all, I was turned on to the Mets.

My sophomore year roommate was a fan of the Mets, Sabres and Bills. To put it lightly, his fan experience growing up was very different from mine. We joked that the Mets might suddenly become great if I became a fan, given how well my New England teams always did and there was honestly a lot to like.

As a Red Sox fan, I liked that Mets fans don’t like the Yankees. I also liked that the Mets had a lot of players who developed from their own farm system. It was something I didn’t see from the Red Sox as much. Finally, as a fan I enjoy watching pitching more than anything. With the Mets flaunting one of the best rotations in the big leagues, it was a somewhat natural adoption of the Mets in my case.

Two years later and the Mets sweep the Cubs to advance to the 2015 World Series. It looked like my magic was working! While they lost that World Series, the Mets remained a good team for a while and entered 2017 as likely playoff candidates. They then proceeded to destroy those hopes in style, spiraling below the Marlins to the level of the Braves and Phillies.

(Courtesy of Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

What happened? Did I lose the magic? In June I moved out to Arizona, where my magic was put to the test in turning around the Diamondbacks after a poor 2016. With a sure lock on a Wild Card spot, it looks like I still got it. So that can mean only one thing: the Mets are really that bad.

A huge factor in the Mets’ downfall has been the injury bug. It creeps up on all teams to some extent, but it has affected the Mets more than any team in recent memory. In just the last two weeks, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores and Steven Matz have gone down with injuries. This is the list of every Mets player who has been on the DL this year:

  • Noah Syndergaard
  • Zack Wheeler (twice)
  • Yoenis Cespedes (twice)
  • Michael Conforto (twice)
  • David Wright
  • Steven Matz (twice)
  • Matt Harvey
  • Jose Reyes
  • Juan Lagares
  • Seth Lugo (twice)
  • Jeurys Familia
  • Brandon Nimmo (twice)
  • Robert Gsellman
  • Asdrubal Cabrera (twice)
  • J. Rivera
  • Travis d’Arnaud
  • Tommy Milone
  • Josh Smoker
  • Tyler Pill

Plus countless other players who have been listed as day-to-day. Any team suffering from injuries to this extent will struggle to post a 70-win season, especially when that DL list includes seven starting pitchers. And some of these injuries are very obscure, including a broken nose from fouling a ball off the face, an arterial clot, a scapula stress injury and a partially collapsed lung.

(Courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Another issue with the Mets is that they were a team that lived and died by the home run. That’s a risky strategy that often makes for a streaky offense, and the Mets were just that for most of the year. They’ve shipped off much of that power (Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda, most notably) so now they are in September trying to play a new style of ball. Factor in their injuries and it’s a recipe for defeat.

UPDATE: Amed Rosario has just left the game against the Astros with an undisclosed injury.

And if all that wasn’t enough to spell the Mets’ demise, consider that their manager is Terry Collins. Collins has done much to irritate Mets fans, especially when it comes to his bullpen management. He also took some heat when Asdrubal Cabrera was moved from shortstop to second base but Amed Rosario was not promoted right away. But what really bothered me this year is that Curtis Granderson hit so poorly for so long and Juan Lagares never got a chance to play. I know a player can only break out of a slump if they get to take their hacks at the plate, but there was no hope that Granderson would turn it around.

(Courtesy of Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

With Lagares in the wings, it would have made perfect sense to trade Granderson for name value and get Lagares in the lineup full-time. The argument against that is Granderson’s clubhouse presence, which was understandably something the Mets wouldn’t want to part with. Until they did, and they got little in return.

There are clearly plenty of reasons the Mets stink, but when will they be good again? As mentioned earlier, the Mets have let go of numerous players. The list includes Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, Curtis Granderson and Rene Rivera. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the list includes no starting pitchers.

The outgoing talent seems to indicate the Mets are entering a rebuilding stage. But if they really wanted to rebuild, wouldn’t they have shopped some pitching? The Mets’ ideal starting rotation heading into the year was Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. Available if necessary would be Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

Injuries have ruined all hopes of this rotation coming together this year, but the talent is still there to shop one or two of these pieces for some offense to pair alongside young studs like Amed Rosario and Michael Conforto. What if the Mets had kept a couple heavy bats and shopped Steven Matz or Matt Harvey for some more consistent hitters? The rotation would still be great and the offense could be competitive. The Mets are selling like they’re rebuilding, but they’re not selling the right pieces.

(Courtesy of Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

There is no way the injury bug can get the Mets any worse in the future than it did this season. That’s about the only good news. If they stay reasonably healthy, trade a pitcher or two in the offseason for consistent hitting, and cut ties with Terry Collins, this team could be competitive again next year. If they don’t have the guts to make some big trades to compete, they’ll have to commit to rebuilding over the next few years. It’s not what Mets fans want to hear, but if they want to compete in the next five years, they have to either commit to pumping their offense or commit to a full rebuild.

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