Since The All Star Break, nobody in the sport has played better than the Mets and their trading deadline decisions have validated the fact that this organization does not think a 13-5 record since the break is a mirage and I totally agree with that contention.
As you all know, I have been stating all year that I firmly believe that this Mets roster was far better than their first half record and things did not go as planned but that does not mean you start to totally rebuild a team that I firmly believe has a group of championship caliber players.
I am particularly defining a pitching staff that is talented and with the addition of an ace in Marcus Stroman, I would re-define the group as mega-talented.
The bullpen, which is such a huge part of any modern day baseball roster, also under performed but it has turned the corner as well with Luis Avilan and Justin Wilson giving options to Mickey Callaway to build a way to close out games. Of course, Edwin Diaz has been spotty at best but this is a hurler with incredible stuff that might need some confidence building in the same way Jeurys Familia needs it.
When Phil Regan became pitching coach all we heard from the baseball experts was snide remarks on his age and little about the years of experience he brought to the table which has been illustrated by the improvement I’ve seen in this staff.
They throw more first pitch strikes and the slider has became a part of each pitcher’s arsenal under his watch. I know we live in a society that feels older people need to be put out to pasture but his commitment to helping each pitcher to become the best they could be is a big reason the team has exhibited a turn around.
The leadership in the clubhouse has also played a major role as Todd Frazier and Michael Conforto have established a great rapport with players on the team reminding me so much of the 2016 team which also had to scratch and claw to get back in the playoff hunt.
And make no mistake about it–they are back in the hunt trailing by 4 games in the wild card chase and they have already passed more than half the teams in the standings they were behind at the All Star Break.
I personally know what great leaders Frazier and Conforto are and realized that late last year. Not too many people know this but last September I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and had to reconstruct my lifestyle. I talked to both Conforto and Frazier about it and both encouraged me so much that their words stayed in my mind the whole time I was dieting and exercising all off-season.
They made me believe I could turn my life around because they believed in my resolve that I could accomplish it. They did it during one on one conversations that could only help me because they are 2 people that care about others and the Met clubhouse is filled with leaders like that.
Another great leader is manager Mickey Callaway who has experienced some up and down moments but I have an intense amount of respect for him as well. I made a commitment to get to know him better this year and he has been very open to that. Our conversations are not always about baseball and I have seen what an open, honest and caring person that he is.
I can safely tell you that if I had a son who played this sport I’d want Callaway to be his manager because I know he would likely be a better player but more importantly I know he would become a better teammate and person.
We all have our good days and bad days in life but Callaway has illustrated to me that it is far more important to analyze how we respond to those moments than criticizing the mistakes that led to those moments. And that is why his players will run through a wall for him much in the way the 2016 Mets would do the same for Terry Collins.
That 2016 team was 7.5 games back on August 19th and got the home field Wild Card spot and did it because the pitching righted the ship while Yoenis Cespedes turned on his power bat.
I get the sense that Robinson Cano could become that man in the Met lineup in 2019 and the addition of Marcus Stroman could make this rotation the envy of every National League team down the stretch. A four game deficit can clearly be made up in 2 months of baseball and even if the experts don’t buy that notion, I am here to tell you the Met players could care less about their detractors. They believe because of the leadership I see every single day.four
While on the subject of Cano, do not discount his leadership skills either as the emergence of Amed Rosario has been helped along by Cano. He spends countless hours with Rosario. Now don’t get me wrong–Amed deserves so much credit for working tirelessly at his craft but Cano has been a great resource in talking to Amed about taking the skills he has worked on and incorporating that into his everyday game whether it be using the whole field at the plate or studying the tendency of hitters while patrolling the shortstop position.
Now that determination does not fit the narrative most want you to hear. But that take on the Mets will serve as fuel to their competitive fire. Can they make the playoffs? I think it will be a difficult journey but not impossible.
And on the 50th anniversary of the 69 Mets we all know impossible dreams can only be realized if you believe you can reach those goals. And I can safely tell you there is belief in this improbable ride in every corner of the clubhouse because leaders like Frazier and Conforto will guide the way.
And from a personal experience I can tell you they are very persuasive leaders.
The last two months of this season will be very interesting and should be a fun ride.