In many ways, the first half of the New York Mets 2015 season reads like it was ripped right out Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.
The words, published in 1859, capture the hearts, minds and emotions of 2015 Mets fans. There are games like Wednesdays 4-1 pitching masterpiece by Jacob deGrom that reveal great promise; young arms fulfilling every ounce of hope. These are the games the Mets front office point too. Did you see that? they ask with a smirk. Its evidence of the plan, the strategy, in action; the plan Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins have been spoon-feeding fans and the media since 2011. Be patient, they’ve asked. Better days are coming.
These are also the games that Alderson pokes naysayers in the chest and reminds them they are the citizens of Panic City. The sarcasm bites and stirs a restless fan base, starving for a 1986 redux.
The Mets are stocked with talented, young arms: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and don’t forget, Zack Wheeler will be back next season. Combined they are 21-16 in 45 starts. deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard and Matz have pitched a combined to pitch 290 1/3 innings, allowing 87 earned runs (2.69 ERA). No one in Major League Baseball has better pitching talent. Period.
But for every glimpse of hope these young arms throw at Mets fans, there is an equal sense of hopelessness foolishness, incredulity, despair, darkness.
After a strong 15-8 start in April (including an 11-game winning streak), the Mets have become a sub-.500 team (28-34) who is weak offensively, poor defensively and have limited depth. They are last in all of MLB in hitting (.232) and 29th in runs scored (297). The Mets have been shutout 10 times this season, including five times since June 17. Since that date the Mets have scored 43 runs in 186 innings and are 25-for-142 (.176) hitting with runners in scoring position. Over the last three weeks the Mets have lost 12 of 20 games and have fallen 3 1/2 games behind in the National League East.
Numbers don’t lie, in fact, if you’re a Mets fan, they can cause migraine headaches, bouts of depression and fits of rage.
Injuries haven’t help the situation, either. They have lost Travis d’Arnaud (twice), David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Jerry Blevins, Rafael Montero, Buddy Carlyle, Erik Goeddel and now Steven Matz, to injury. Dillon Gee is in the minors and has lost his trade value, Jon Niese continues to be consistently inconsistent and Jenrry Mejia is expected to return this weekend after an 80-game suspension after testing positive for PEDs.
The Mets have attempted to plug holes from within. Five different players have spent time at third base in David Wrights absence Daniel Murphy, Danny Muno, Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores. Kevin Plawecki, Johnny Monell and Anthony Recker have filled in for Travis d’Arnaud, who has made two trips to the DL. In addition, Darrell Ceciliani, John Mayberry, Dilson Herrera, Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis have been up, and down, and out at one time or another, none more curious than the case of Nieuwenhuis, who played in 27 games (seven starts) with the Mets between April and May, batting .079 (3-for-38) before being sent the Anaheim Angels. In 10 games with the Angels, he batted .136 (3-for-22) before being designated and the Mets reclaimed him.
A career .226 hitter, Nieuwenhuis has had great success at Triple-A. Prior to last week’s promotion, Nieuwenhuis hit .293 (17-for-58) with seven homers and 20 RBIs for Las Vegas. The problem is, his minor league success has never translated into major league success. If nothing else, he will one day have a great story to tell his grandchildren about the year he went from Las Vegas to New York back to Las Vegas, to Anaheim, then Albuquerque, back to Las Vegas and, again, to New York.
Nieuwenhuis journey is telling. As the Mets offensive struggles have exposed a weakness in the organizations system. Despite improving their overall prospect base (jumping from 25th in 2012 to 6th in 2015, according to Baseball Americas annual prospect rankings), the Mets have an imbalance of talent. The publication issued a warning in 2012, stating: New York’s organizational strength remains right-handed starting pitching, but they’ll need hitting prospects to even things out
The situation has put the Mets in a precarious position. The Mets have exhausted their bench and minor league options. So, now what? The pressure is on and the time to make a move is now, yet the team is frozen. Alderson says he is willing to deal:
Yeah, I’m prepared to overpay. But there has to be something to overpay for we’ve got to be at least somewhat confident that what we’re going to do here is going to help us something that’s attractive that you really believe is going to help you help your team. I don’t think were at the point … I think the bottom line is, at least for the time being, we need to get the job done with what we have.
Call me the antagonist, but I agree. So does Mets analyst Keith Hernandez, who told the New York Daily News last week (and again during Fridays broadcast):
“I don’t trade any young players, I don’t want any veteran here, I don’t want a 36-year-old This is a team I think has a future and I want young players to be a part of the future I don’t want any panic moves and I don’t think Sandy (Alderson) is of that ilk and he’s gonna stick with it. I don’t know what to tell the fans other than I want to see young players keep coming down the pike.”
There are three weeks left until the July 31 trade deadline. A lot can happen between now and then on and off the field. How will this Dickens-like tale play out for the Mets? Will it be the best of times or the worst of times? The age of wisdom or the age of foolishness? The epoch of belief or the epoch of incredulity?