They built it up, and then they tore it down.
Like the lyrics to the Frank Sinatra classic, “That’s Life,” “You’re riding high in April, shot down in May…,” Mets fans had the highest of expectations in April, with the highest payroll, two Hall of Famers projected for the rotation, and a team coming off a 101-win season. But instead of following the song’s lead of “being back on top in June,” the summer wind carried them to a record of 7-19 in June, and that continued the club’s spiral, culminating in the dismantling at the trade deadline.
Poof. Gone with the wind. Another season down the drain.
And to make matters worse, General Manager Billy Eppler, and even owner Steve Cohen essentially announced after the trade deadline, “We’re not interested in winning next year, either.”
Not in those words, of course, but the meaning was clear – they’re “re-purposing,” re-imagining, retreating, re-figuring, re-assessing, and any other “re” you’d like to infer.
So where does that leave Mets fans these days?
Some could argue they’re holding major league tickets to a minor league team. A hopeless cause orphaned and in danger of losing 100-plus games this season after winning 101 just last year. And that would certainly serve precedent.
As evidenced by their poor showing against the Braves this weekend, where in three games they scored a total of three runs, and that was merely the benefit of a garbage time home run by Daniel Vogelbach after the game had long been lost, the ’23 Mets now rank as the biggest of sports failures, again calculating against the sport’s all-time highest payroll, noted by several sources at $377 million.
They salvaged the last game of the foursome against Atlanta, 7-6, led by the remaining “Ace” of the rotation, Kodai Senga, who gave up a bases-clearing double to Marcel Ozuna in the first, and not much else the rest of his six-inning stint.
There were encouraging comments regarding the prospects the Mets accumulated by trading Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, David Robertson, Mark Canha, Tommy Pham, and Dominic Leone. But prospects are suspects, unproven commodities with “potential” labels affixed, lottery tickets that don’t always scratch off with payouts.
Prospects with five tools don’t always make it out of the hardware store, either. Do the names Alex Ochoa, Gregg Jefferies, Steve Henderson, Leroy Stanton, or Alex Escobar ring a bell, longtime Mets fans, just to name a few. All had great potential, high expectations, and some had a few decent moments along the way, but when you trade future Hall of Famers, perhaps you hope that some of those acquired have Cooperstown in their futures?
Look no further than Brett Baty, who has gone from can’t-miss to needing more seasoning in Triple A. No sure things here. Great potential for next year, but no sure thing.
The Mets traded Robertson to the Miami Marlins for two players to be born later, um, check that, two highly regarded teenagers projected to reach the majors by the next Millenium – infielder Marco Vargas and catcher Ronald Hernandez, that maybe the Mets should have drafted or signed in the first place if they were that good.
Perhaps the scouting department also needs to be “re-assessed.” You know that scene in “Citizen Kane” where the publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane is pondering a photograph of the writing staff of a rival newspaper, and then the next thing you know that staff now works for him? He made them offers they couldn’t refuse.
With the might of Mr. Cohen’s resources, when scouts for such consistent winning teams as the Braves or Astros or Dodgers become “free agents” – without tampering – perhaps they could be influenced to join the Mets. Make them offers they can’t refuse.
Pity the thousands of Mets fans who spent hundreds of dollars on tickets for late season games hoping to bring their family to see future Hall of Famers in action wearing their favorite uniform. The thought being when they took their family to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown years from now, they can point to those plaques and reminisce about when they saw them win games for the Mets. Not any longer.
Actually, there is one future Hall of Famer they can brag about, or at least one Met clearly on that trajectory – Pete Alonso. The Polar Bear is hitting home runs at a Hall of Fame pace and is rapidly climbing the team’s all-time lists in home runs and runs batted in.
And that leads to whether or not the Mets intend to sign Alonso to a long-term contract over the winter, preventing him from becoming a free agent at the end of next season. Both sides are mum on the subject, but the closer to the day the big guy entices other clubs to place their bids, Mets fans will no doubt be holding their collective breath.
He’s the face of the franchise, he sells tickets, the star of their commercials (pepper on your pancakes, Pete?), and he enjoys being a Met. But the signs are there that he is frustrated, maybe already thinking about the big numbers other teams are dangling, and it has become known Eppler didn’t hang up the phone when other teams inquired about Alonso at the deadline, so there are concerns.
Even with Alonso in the lineup, the Mets are just above average in hitting home runs as a team. Going into the Sunday night clash with the Braves, the Mets ranked 11th in taters with 144, while Atlanta far outpaces them and the rest of baseball with 225.
Of course, in such a lost season, Mets stats do not rank well in just about any offensive category. Yes, they are offensive – pun intended.
In hits, they are 28th in all of baseball, with 908. Ironically, the Yankees trail them for 29th with 897 hits, and the packing-their-bags Oakland A’s are last with the least, 860 hits. The Rangers are first with 1,111, and the Braves are second with 1094.
In runs scored, and gee, isn’t that an important statistic when it comes to winning games, the Mets are 22nd with 500 in their first 117 games. The Yankees are just ahead of them with 511. That team from Atlanta leads the pack with 678.
And since you already know the name of the game is pitching – pitching – pitching, the Mets rank 21st in ERA at 4.53. The Yankees are 11th at 4.00. Seattle leads the combined leagues with a mound mark of 3.68.
Speaking of pitching, with Edwin Diaz scheduled to come back next year after essentially killing the season jumping and down in the WBC, the rebuild didn’t have to go the way they “re-purposed” after all.
Perhaps Scherzer had to go, and maybe the outfielders with expiring contracts could have reaped the same harvest, but you could have sold a Mets fan base renewed hope with Roberston coming back to team with Diaz, and a rotation fronted by Verlander, followed by Senga and Joe Quintana. And you’ve got David Peterson currently making a fair bid for that fourth spot, or they will see what shakes out in the offseason.
But this was not to be. Next year’s rotation is Senga, Quintana and who-knows-who. Should make for a fascinating series of headlines “re-purposing” the ‘24 team.