The Mets have hit crunch time in the midst of a pennant race with the trade deadline upon them. It is the same time that their 2015 season was transformed with the arrival of Yoenis Cespedes.
After going 5-4 on a tough road trip, the Mets are about to embark on a nine-game homestand, starting with three against St. Louis, including a doubleheader on Tuesday. The Colorado Rockies come in for four, and followed by the four-game Subway Series, with two at Citi Field against the Yankees before two across town.
“It’s great to be home finally,” Mets manager Terry Collins said on Monday afternoon before the opener of the St. Louis series was rained out. “We’ve been gone, well those of us that went to the All-Star Game, have been on the road for two weeks, so it’s good to be be back. We’re playing okay, they’ll bring some emotion and some energy to play here.
“We’ve got the Cardinals, they’re a huge draw. we’re battling them, I’m well aware of what the Wild Card looks like. This is a big homestand, and this time of year, they’re all big. You’re look at the final 60-something games, this is big! This is when the good teams take off and we need to take off.”
The Mets are well aware how significant a time in the calendar this is, as it is just about a year since the deadline deal with Detroit for Cespedes that spurred their run to the World Series.
There were a lot of rumors flying around the Mets in the days leading up to the deadline. That came to a head on Wednesday, July 29, 2015 when it looked like the Mets dealt Wlmer Flores to the Brewers for Carlos Gomez. It was interesting that Flores remained in the game, something that never happens if a trade is completed. He was seen crying on the field in the eighth inning after someone told him he would be traded. After the game, in a memorable rant, Collins admitted that he knew nothing about a trade and that it was not going to happen
Flores wound up staying a Met, and became a folk hero in the process, with a game winning home run two nights later, the same day that the Mets traded for Cespedes at the deadline. The Mets went on to sweep the Nationals that weekend to tie them for first and the rest is history.
“I learned a lot last year, I really did,” Collins said of how he handled his team at the trade deadline. “I talked about this last year, I never went through that. In all my years of managing in the big leagues, there were never deadline trades, even when we were in first place like last year, second place, I never had a deadline deal that made a difference, and I saw the impact it made.
“This week, obviously, reaction we saw last year with Wilmer, and maybe it’s because I’ve been in the league too many years, if you’re a good player, your name’s going to be in deals. That’s the business side of the game. You don’t have to like it, you have to accept. When you signed the deal on that thing, nobody said you were going to be a lifelong Yankee, Mets, Red Sox, whatever it may be. You may get traded. Some of the greatest players in the game have been traded. Two guys just went to the Hall of Fame that played on multiple teams, so it happens.
“If one of my guys is mentioned, after what I saw last year, I think I’ll go spend a little time with him.”
Cespedes went on a tear the two months he was with the Mets last season, when he hit .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBI in 57 games.
His run was one of the most historic in baseball history and electrified Citi Field in a way it never had before.
This season, he has kept up his stellar play, hitting .299 with 21 home runs and 56 RBI.
“Well, he’s just a great player, Collins said of Cespedes. “He continues to be the force of our lineup. We need to get him some help a little bit. I think right now, as I just said, you would think this is crunch time, and I think this is when the big guys step up, and I could see that happening.
“He actually swung the bat pretty good in Miami, so he’s back here, he plays good at Citi Field. We’re hoping that this homestand he gets it really going. He’s the guy who can not only carry us, but makes everyone else start to come alive when he’s swinging the bat good, too. I hate to put all the pressure on Ces, but in one year, he’s been a big force in our lineup.”
Cespedes is feeling better after missing time with a quad injury right before the All-Star break. It is important that he stay healthy and anchor the middle of the order the final couple months of the season.
Crunch time is when things get serious, and the Mets are confident it will become “Cespedes Time” once again.