Talking to the Mets as the first half of the season ended you got the sense that most of the players would spend that four day break looking in the mirror and trying to figure out how to play better in the second half. I got the sense there would a bunch of soul searching because quite frankly the talent on this roster is far better than their record indicates.
Add to that this is a prideful bunch of players who believe in each other and would go through a wall for their manager despite what the so called experts think. Robinson Cano would have to be the poster child for that soul searching and his 3 homer night put an exclamation point on the progress he has made. Don’t think for a moment that the young players in this clubhouse don’t look at that as an inspiring way to play this game.
Cano never complained or made any excuses–he merely worked as hard as he could to right the ship and I observed a player who led by example showing others there is only ONE way to beat a slump and that is to work hard without ever losing your optimistic nature. I personally have a tremendous amount of respect for him because he is a classy pro in EVERY sense of the word. And that is why the back of his baseball cards shouts out the words All-Star.
But the Met bullpen was also a group that had to re-energize because in today’s baseball a bullpen is a necessary commodity for any manager. And simply put every single member of that fraternity that lives in the Met bullpen has heavily contributed to a 6-4 record since the break. They are throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters limiting their walks and making big pitches in huge spots that put the game in the”W”column–something that was not consistently occurring in the first half of the season.
Edwin Diaz has looked far better since the break and I really believe Phil Regan has taken him on as a pet project trying to solidify the notion that he possesses an explosive fast ball and that should be his primary pitch with the slider clearly being the second pitch in his arsenal making both pitches much more effective weapons. Luis Avilan and Justin Wilson are finally totally healthy and have gotten some big outs which has helped Mickey Callsaway not overwork Seth Lugo making him more effective as well.
The reality of the situation is the Mets sit 7 games behind in the Wild Card chase and must leapfrog a plethora of teams. That means getting to 500 is the first goal and right now than are 8 games below the baseball equator line. A short term goal should be getting to that 500 mark by mid August and then you can go from there.
But the bottom line here is I spend day after day with the Met players and I still feel this is a group that gets along and would go through a wall for their manager. The record is clearly sub-par and that is a big obstacle but not an impossible one to overcome.
In fact, Michael Conforto and I chatted about this recently and we both agreed this is same plight the Mets were in during the 2016 season when they had to leapfrog tons of teams to earn a spot. And remember in the second half the pitching rebounded while Yoenis Cespedes found his stroke much in the same way that Robinson Cano seems to be finding his swing.
Now don’t get me wrong–the Mets have a HUGE hill to climb and likely do not have enough time to reach the top of that hill. But the players in this room have pride and committment and at the very least, could have a bunch of fun trying to play so well that Mets won’t break up this team in the selling mode everyone thinks will happen in next week or two.
And if the first 10 games after the break are any indication of the thoughts in the minds of these Met players, they just might have began to think this season is far from over. And that is a notion I have been feeling watching this team the past few weeks.
Is it an outlandish dream? It may be but notions being outlandish is the way every great sports journey usually begins. .