The Mets closed shop for the All-Star break Sunday afternoon at Citi Field and with another loss. But listen to manager Mickey Callaway and you want to believe there is hope that the second half will be different.
“I feel like we can make a run at this thing,” he said. This was after losing 8-3 to the Phillies and going into the break at 40- 50. More so, the gap is wide between them and the first place Atlanta Braves, 13-½ games, and they would have to leap over eight other teams for any chance at a wild card.
Just to get the record straight, 7.0 games is a wide gap to the second wild card. And the Mets would have to play more than ,700 ball to get there. But the manager has hope, and that is always good, but not the way this team is constituted.
For a moment, let’s bypass the adversity and bad aspects that have made any possible postseason run out of the equation for the Mets as they headed for the break. This promising season would still be, but this rebuild of a bullpen has been so dismal and the explanation as to why it failed are difficult to comprehend.
The tune would be different if that bullpen was not a failure. You can’t win and not with a consistent issue of a bullpen that managed to find different ways of giving up late game leads. Edwin Diaz along with Jeurys Familia were the primary culprits of the first half.
Just the other night, when Diaz blew another game against the Phillies, Mets’ radio voice Howie Rose said on the air “When the bullpen phone rings let it go right to voicemail.” And he was not kidding.
So when Mickey Callaway said, “We can sneak into that wild card, sneak back in this division,” he has to comprehend the inconsistency of Edwin Diaz who was acquired to do the job. His record breaking 57 saves with the Mariners last year now appear to be a mirage.
Furthermore, Callaway made an analogy about the Washington Nationals a team that has crept back into the NL Wild Card picture and playing over .500 baseball the past few weeks.
“Look what the Nationals have done in a 2-½ week period,” Callaway said. Yeah, the Nationals moved ahead of the second place Phillies. They got better in the bullpen and were able to keep the lead because their bullpen saw improvement.
Callaway’s bullpen, perhaps more the fault of a rookie general manager, who had the wrong assembly line, can’t be compared to the Nationals’ that made a minor adjustment. The Mets bullpen continued to find alternatives and how to lose, as they did on this closing homestand before the All-Star break that saw them go 3-5 against the Braves, Yankees, and the Phillies.
And upon further review, it may be Mickey Callaway who is aware of the consequences that await about a managerial change that will come when this dismal season concludes. Though, as Callaway says this is baseball. There is hope for a team. the manager says that came out of the break last year at 39-55.
“Anything can happen in baseball,” Callaway said. “We need to have a sense of urgency because of the possibilities. And in my mind anything’s possible.”
Coincidence here. The Mets were also 13-½ games behind the Braves at the break last year. The manager said anything can happen in baseball. But it was supposed to be better and it did not improve as this team also continues to lead the National League in errors.
So in that getaway and quiet Mets’ clubhouse, the All-Stars packed their bags for Cleveland. Pete Alonso heads to his first all-star game leading all rookies in home runs (30), RBI (68), extra-base hits (53), OBP (.372), total bases (206), runs (57), hits (91), multi-hit games (28), walks (37), and doubles with 21.
And Jeff McNeil, though with one hit Sunday, continues to slightly lead the Major Leagues in hitting at .349.
“I’m living out a fantasy right now,” Alonso said. “I’m extremely blessed and I’m very thankful. I just want to show my gratitude by working hard and busting it innings one through nine and giving my all every single day here.”
Alonso forgot one thing. His manager is living a fantasy. Because the Mets, if anything this first half, and again not to take anything away from the offense, are not a contender and need more than a Miracle of the ‘69 Mets that was replayed often on this homestand.
This team was built to win now, that was what GM Brodie Van Wagenen was relaying to a loyal fan base and those in MLB. He also put that foot in his mouth when he said this Mets team will be the one to chase.
But the Mets during the All-Star break are closer to the last place Marlins than the first place Braves. And it is expected the Mets will be sellers. Zach Wheeler, the loser Sunday, could have pitched his last game as a Met at Citi Field.
This wasn’t the plan. There is no way, as much as Mickey Callaway wants us to believe. Instead Citi Field will be ghost town again in September. The attractions will be Alonzo, chasing a rookie home run record, and McNeil aiming to be the second Met to win a batting title.
And in September, perhaps we get to see the arrival of Anthony Kay on the mound. A top Mets’ prospect pitched an inning of scoreless ball Sunday at the Futures Game in Cleveland.
Get that rest. And for the Mets, as much as Mickey Callaway says there is hope, there won’t be much time to rest as they look at 2020 in the second half.