With the New York Mets failing to make the postseason, and worse yet, with their collapse, the narrative has become this core hasn’t been good enough to win a World Series. Sandy Alderson seemed to echo that sentiment a bit when he said there were going to be changes to the core this offseason. Of course, with free agency and the like, that was probably going to happen anyway.
Before Steve Cohen purchased the team, the Mets core could probably be defined as Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, and Noah Syndergaard. At least, that was the homegrown core. In that core, you had two ace level pitchers, two All-Star level first baseman (yes, Smith was that in 2020), two All-Star level outfielders, and a jack-of-all trades All-Star.
When you add Francisco Lindor, who joins deGrom as a future Hall of Famer, you’d be hard pressed to find much better cores in all of baseball. This level of talent should be the envy of the other 29 teams in the league. That begs the question what went wrong in 2021.
On the one hand, this was a team which was 3.5 games in first place at the trade deadline. Their high water mark was 5.5 games up on June 16. As we know, this team had the bottom completely fall out as they finished eight games under .500 and 11.5 games back of a mediocre Atlanta Braves team for the division.
The narratives emerged. Luis Rojas was in over his head. The ReplaceMets got them the division lead, but the regulars couldn’t seal the deal. This team had no heart, no will to win, no killer instinct, etc. Basically, chose your narrative and apply it to this team.
In many ways, that’s what people said about the 2007-2008 Mets. As we all learned, firing Willie Randolph wasn’t a solution. Switching out leaders like Cliff Floyd was a mistake. Really, making change for its own sake proved to be a complete and utter disaster. Certainly, so was the Wilpons involvement in a Ponzi Scheme. That said, the level of dissatisfaction with “the core” rather than a real analysis of what was the problem led to the demise of that team.
The real issue with that Mets team was injuries and pitching. During the back-to-back collapses, the pitching completely fell apart at the end. Certainly, Jeff Wilpon playing doctor played a massive role in that happening. In some ways, we’re seeing the same thing happen but with a completely new regime.
Let’s take a look at the 2021 Mets. The first thing which should jump off the page is the team went into the season without a real third baseman or a left fielder. We all knew by Opening Day J.D. Davis could not handle the position, but there he was. Behind him was Luis Guillorme, who was as good a glove in the middle infield as they come, but he was a poor third baseman. After that was Jonathan Villar, but he has never been a good fielder.
As for left field, it’s the Mets mistake as old as time. You cannot just throw anyone in left field and expect it to work. Todd Hundley wasn’t a left fielder. Lucas Duda wasn’t a left fielder. Sticking a good bat in the outfield just never works, and oft times, we see diminishing returns for that player at the plate. While Smith did an admirable job, he again proved he couldn’t play left field.
Of course, the Mets could have gone with McNeil at either position as he’s played both positions well. Instead, the Mets were obstinate he was a second baseman because that was the belief Sandy Alderson stubbornly held during his first stint with the Mets.
This speaks to a real problem with the Mets and how it colored how the core was viewed. Players were asked to do things they shouldn’t have been asked to do. For example, remember Conforto in center field? It’s been an organizational approach to just plug bats everywhere. The end result was the team suffering as players failed to reach their ceilings as they struggled out of position, and we also saw the defense lag.
Now, the defense wasn’t really the problem in 2021. With the analytics and Rojas at the helm, the defense was much improved. However, to a certain extent, the damage had already been done. Steven Matz, who struggled in large part due to the absence of defense and analytics, was cast off for relievers who pitched poorly. We had already seen pitchers like Chris Flexen and Paul Sewald cast off. There’s more.
Really, the issue isn’t the core, but what the Mets did with it and how they built around it. For years, we knew Alonso and Smith were both first baseman, but they Mets absolutely refused to make the tough decision and pick just one of them and try to move the other to address a need. It’s a decision which has held this team back for three years now. As for the justification of the anticipation of the universal DH, that’s no reason to throw away three seasons, especially with Alonso and Smith is going to a free agency after the 2024 season.
Looking deeper, this was a team really harmed by injuries. Really, you can make the argument if deGrom was healthy, they don’t collapse. If Carlos Carrasco isn’t hurt in Spring Training, they don’t collapse. If Syndergaard returns when anticipated, they don’t collapse. However, that happened. That’s more of a sign of a snake bit team than it is a problem with the core.
Really, despite the flaws in roster building, this team was good enough. We actually saw it with this team being in first place despite the injuries and the odds. If you’re being honest in your assessment, you should be saying the Mets need to get a real third baseman and left fielder, and this team will be primed to win a World Series. After all, this team with a relatively shallow pitching staff and being plagued by injuries was on the precipice.
That brings us to the next issue. The front office didn’t try to go for it. There was the opportunity, and they chose not to get the pitching this team needed. There’s no good explanation why they didn’t.
As a result, the people who failed at supplementing a very good core is now going to call it an eroding one. They’re going to allow people to falsely accuse this core of not being good enough to win. It’s complete and utter nonsense, and it completely obfuscates what the real problem is – how this organization has approached building rosters.
Overall, if the Mets bring back this same exact roster replacing Davis at third with a real third baseman and putting McNeil in left field, they will be the best team in baseball. There should be absolutely no doubts about that.
One day, you’re in first place, and you’re a potential NL Manager of the Year. The next, your team is eliminated from postseason contention with no hope of having a .500 record.
That’s the type of year it has been for Luis Rojas and the New York Mets. As is standard, when a team falls short, the manager faces scrutiny.
It comes with the territory. Obviously, Rojas hasn’t been perfect. Assuredly, he’s made bad decisions, and there are times you wonder what in the world he’s doing.
Go pinpoint your most maddening moment. Make it out to be more than it is. Throw a few more moments on there. Magnify that.
Guess what? That’s not the reason the 2021 Mets didn’t make the postseason. It’s far from it.
In fact, for a while, Rojas was one of the things ruse was right about the Mets. At least, that was the narrative. In the end, blaming or crediting Rojas was just that – narrative.
The truth of the matter is it all fell apart. It wasn’t all at once, but rather in pieces. Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker were the only two starters to last the year with Stroman the only one to have sustained success into the second half.
Offensively, the Mets went with Chili Davis only to utilize advanced data which runs counter-intuitive to what Davis does. We saw the offense have a big letdown.
Francisco Lindor had a slow start. Michael Conforto dealt with COVID and a career worst year. That’s the tip of the iceberg with everyone not named Brandon Nimmo and maybe Pete Alonso having poor to flat out bad years.
For his part, Rojas listened to the workload management rules. The front office specifically said it was the player’s fault they got hurt.
That brings us in a roundabout way to a big part of the issue. With last year being a COVID impacted year, depth was more important than ever. For some reason, the front office was cavalier with it.
Steven Matz was traded for two relievers who had little impact and another flipped for the poor performing Khalil Lee. They also made odds unforced errors like designating Johneshwy Fargas for assignment. For our mental health, we probably should’ve dwell too much on Jerad Eickhoff pitching in five games.
Fact of that matter is if Jacob deGrom was healthy, much of this season goes much differently. If the Mets hitters were just a reasonable facsimile of their career stats, the season is far different.
For that matter, if the front office looked at the roster problems and attacked them at the trade deadline, things go differently. At the end of the day, this was a first place team at the trade deadline, and the organization opted to fight another day.
In what way is all of this Rojas’ fault? The simple truth is it isn’t.
We can and should have the debate over whether Rojas is the right man for the job. Realistically speaking, he’s only had one year at the helm, and in that time, he’s shown good and bad.
The issue for any pure novice manager is whether he can grow. No one knows that yet. No one.
What we do know is the Mets shown they can win and fall apart with Rojas at the helm. Both instances were entirely tied to the strength of the roster. That brings us to the front office.
In the end, feel however you want about Rojas. It doesn’t matter because he’s not the reason the Mets disappointed this year. He may eventually be the fall guy but things aren’t magically improving because there’s another manager. The only way that happens is if the roster improves.
This offseason, the New York Mets have a number of holes to fill in free agency. Chief among them is third base as the Mets have not had a third baseman since 2014 when David Wright was yet to be diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Since then, the Mets have better filling around the edges and singing players like Todd Frazier, who struggled to stay on the field.
Looking at the free agent landscape, it appears the two best options are going to be Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant. While Correa is a shortstop, he has indicated his willingness to change positions like Alex Rodriguez once did. With that being the case, Correa instantly becomes the top third base option available.
Correa just turned 27, and he is on pace to have his best ever season as a Major Leaguer. Currently, he has a 6.9 WAR, and he should meet or surpass the 7.0 he had in 2016. Notably, with Correa having three seasons of 6.7 WAR or better, we are talking about a future Hall of Famer.
The reason is Correa does not have a real hole in his game. This year, he has a 135 wRC+. This will mark the fourth time in his seven year career he has had a 135 wRC+ or better. Putting aside the 60 game 2020, he has always been above league average at the plate, and only one time has he registered a wRC+ below 123.
In the field, Correa is a great defensive shortstop. After his struggles in his rookie season, Correa has a a 47 OAA and a 62 DRS at shortstop. That puts him at a Gold Glove level at the position.
All told, Correa is a Silver Slugger level hitter at the plate and a Gold Glover in the field. He could be a right-handed balance to the Mets heavy left-handed hitting lineup, solve the eternal third base woes, and add yet another MVP caliber player to the roster.
Despite all of that, many are hand wringing over the likelihood Correa would have a qualifying offer attached thereby putting the Mets in a position to forfeit a first round pick. In the alternative, they suggest Kris Bryant.
Unlike Correa, Bryant has actually won an MVP award, and like Bryant, he has a World Series ring. While the Mets would be better for adding Bryant, he is not the same caliber of player as Correa, and he probably doesn’t solve the Mets third base question.
After being traded to the San Francisco Giants, Bryant has split time between third base and the outfield. That is much akin to what he did in Chicago. Part of the reason is Bryant is a versatile player which is a bonus. However, it is also the result of his not being a very good third baseman.
Since 2017, Bryant has not posted a positive OAA at third accumulating a -9 OAA. Over that time, he also has a -2 DRS. In the outfield, he has posted better numbers in left field with a 2 OAA and a 6 DRS. Looking at the numbers and the trajectory, you could argue Bryant is really a LF at this point in his career.
Now, you could try him at third for a while, especially if your confident in your shifting, but Bryant doesn’t quite have the bat he used to have which allowed him to offset his poor defense. Keep in mind, he is still a terrific hitter, just now the 144 wRC+ he was over the first three years of his career. In fact, since 2018, Bryant has been a 126 wRC+ hitter.
That is largely why we have seen Bryant fall from being an MVP caliber player to being “merely” an All-Star caliber player. After posting an 18.3 WAR over his first three seasons, Bryant has posted a 10.5 WAR over his next four seasons (with the 2020 season caveat). While Bryant has had strong seasons, and he has a 3.3 WAR so far this year, he’s just not the caliber of player Correa has.
We should note that disparity is likely only going to grow. Next year, Correa will be 27, and Bryant will be 30. Bryant is nearing the end of his prime as Correa is just entering it. As a result, you are likely going to get far better production from Correa over the course of their respective contracts. Indeed, Correa is better now and will very likely remain better.
If you’re a Mets team with not much help on the way from the minors and the impending free agency of players like Carlos Carrasco, Jacob deGrom (player option), Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo, and Taijuan Walker coupled with Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith being arbitration eligible, you are a franchise very much set on expanding this window. That goes double with Javier Baez, Michael Conforto, Aaron Loup, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard as free agents this offseason.
This is a Mets team which needs to focus on winning in 2022 or tearing it down to rebuild. If you are really focused on winning now, Correa is the far better option than Bryant regardless of the qualifying offer being attached. The Mets should not be overthinking it. Go get the far better player and make this Mets roster the best it can possibly be.
After Taijuan Walker got knocked out by the Boston Red Sox, you knew it was going to be another long night for the New York Mets. When you’re as bad as the Mets are, that’s just the case.
Since the trade deadline, the Mets are 17-31. Since the All-Star Break, they’re 25 -39. They can’t beat good teams or much of anyone.
Seeing all the one run losses and same mistakes over and over again, it’s as if this is Groundhog Day. Time just stands still.
As it turns out, it basically is. As Mark Simon of Sports Info Solutions points out, the Mets have played 10 straight games exceeding three hours 30 minutes.
10 in a row!
Oy vey https://t.co/uYLJb0xFXg
— Mark Simon (@MarkASimonSays) September 23, 2021
To make matters worse, the Mets are 2-8. In that time we’ve seen the Mets postseason hopes go from plausible to needing an act of God to essentially dead. It’s now at the point where even Pete Alonso admits defeat.
The Mets are not a good team right now. They’re uninteresting. Worse yet, they’re borderline unwatchable. Aside from Gary, Keith, and Ron, it’s hard to find a reason to hang on in for a blowout loss taking nearly four hours.
Each and every one of these games are long and drawn out. It’s punishment for the fans. It’s just a long drawn out funeral while we try to figure out what went wrong.
In theory, this 11-4 loss was much closer than it seemed. For many parts of the game, the New York Mets were this close to getting back in the game and catching the St. Louis Cardinals.
Case-in-point, in the seventh inning, it’s 8-4 with runners on first and second with no outs and the heart of the order due up. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt makes a double switch.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 16, 2021
Instead of 8-7, it was still 8-4. After that home run robbing catch, the Cardinals then roughed up Heath Hembree to the tune of three runs in the eighth.
At that point, it was 11-4 meaning the game was effectively over. In turn, that meant the season was effectively over. Now, the question is whether the Mets will finish over .500 and what they’re going to do in the offseason.
Honestly, they need to do a lot. This Cardinals sweep showed that. The same is true with the Mets going a combined 2-11 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
Many of those games were close, but so what? In the end, the Mets because they’re not as good as those teams. They’re simply not. Hembree pitching in that spot further proved that.
For now, the Mets can play what if all they want. Certainly, there were positives. That said, the NL teams making the postseason showed the Mets just how far away from contention they really are.
It’s frustrating and sad. That goes double with how the first four months of the season went. It’s now time to build on the right core and figure out the next step.
Yadier Molina was 3-for-5 with two runs, a double, and an RBI. We would actually hear “Yadi!” chants at Citi Field.
Each struck out failing to even get the runner home from third. After that, the 3-0 deficit exploded to 7-0 as Yennsy Diaz threw gasoline all over the dumpster fire in the top of the ninth.
About the only thing interesting from the game was Cardinals SS Edmundo Sosa hitting first base umpire Junior Valentine in the face on a Kevin Pillar infield single. Of course, with it hitting the umpire, who was way out of the way, Pillar couldn’t advance, which was a nice allegory for the night.
An errant throw from Edmundo Sosa hit first base umpire Junior Valentine in the side of the head.
Thankfully, Valentine is okay and is staying in the game. pic.twitter.com/gJqkxsr97A
— SNY (@SNYtv) September 14, 2021
The Mets won’t be seven out with 17 games, but they’re pretty close. Regardless, the reasons for hope certainly weren’t visible tonight.
After Taijuan Walker struggled allowing five runs in the second, he’d actually settle in and give the Mets six innings giving them a chance to win the game. You won’t hear Luis Rojas get credit for sticking by Walker because he’s just become a punching bag.
Keeping in Walker, who’d actually have an RBI single, helped the Mets get into a position to win the game. After a surprise James McCann two run homer, the Mets would take a lead heading into the seventh.
Seth Lugo shut the New York Yankees down in the seventh with just seven pitches. The Mets added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning carrying a 7-5 lead into the eighth.
The Mets would blow it, and for some reason, fans want to say it’s all Rojas’ fault.
It didn’t matter to them Lugo has not been good in a second inning of work this year. The hard hit balls off of him also didn’t matter. He needed to stay in the game.
It didn’t matter Trevor May has been great lately allowing just one run in his last 10 appearances. Apparently, Judge, one of the best players in all of baseball, only could’ve hit a homer off May in that spot to tie the game. (Never mind the second inning homer).
The Yankees take the lead on a wild throw! pic.twitter.com/dqZicSAQGz
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) September 12, 2021
It’s odd Rojas would order Báez to throw the ball away allowing the go-ahead run to score. That’s doubly irresponsible after Rojas apparently told May to surrender a homer to Judge.
The Mets would have their chances to reclaim the lead. In the bottom half of the inning, there were two on and two out. Pete Alonso gave one a ride which fell near the warning track for the final out of the inning.
The final backbreaker was in the ninth. With a runner on second and one out, Kevin Pillar struck out. That’s where Rojas struck again.
The pitch went to the backstop. Instead of breaking immediately Pillar hesitated. That hesitation, clearly ordered by Rojas, cost Pillar the chance to reach first safety.
You can’t help but wonder if McCann’s fly ball to end the game could’ve scored by tying run. We’ll ever know.
What we do know is one of the Mets better relievers, who has pitched extraordinarily well lately, chose a bad time to have a bad outing. Baez threw a ball away. Pillar didn’t immediately break for first.
Like it or not, this one was simply on the players for not executing. It happens. Unfortunately, it just means the Mets are a day closer to the end of the season and possibly a day closer to Rojas being the fall guy.
Game Notes: The Mets wore special alternates with no pinstripes and New York in the Tiffany font. They once again wore the First Responder caps.
Believe it or not, this wasn’t more of the same of what we’ve seen from the New York Mets. Rather, it was the start of the Mets completely derailing of the New York Yankees in the start of the Citi Field portion of the Subway Series.
Megill had his best start as a Major Leaguer pitching a career high seven innings while recording a career high 10 strikeouts. He’d pick up his third career win as the Mets dominated.
A 1️⃣0️⃣ K night for Tylor Megill. 💪 pic.twitter.com/4MzJwvuxOA
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 11, 2021
The first indication of what we were about to see happened in the first inning. Gary Disarcina had an all-time bad send (his speciality), and yet Jonathan Villar was safe due to what can only be classified as the worst tag attempt in Major League history.
— MLB Replays (@MLBReplays) September 11, 2021
Right there, Gary Sanchez set the tone. The rest of the Yankees team would take it home.
Javier Báez hit a ball to Gio Urshela. Urshela made a poor throw home thereby keeping the bases loaded and allowing the run to score. Jeff McNeil followed with a perfect drag bunt to increase the score to 4-2.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 11, 2021
A Kevin Pillar sacrifice fly and James McCann RBI double later, and the Mets had a five run inning. They were far from done. The lead was expanded to 7-2 when Francisco Lindor hit an opposite field one out homer.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 11, 2021
Later in the inning, Báez doubled home Michael Conforto from first. The rally ended there with Báez being nailed at third. It was just about the only thing the Yankees did right all night.
As Keith Hernandez put it, the Yankees were “Pepe Le Peu.” They had two errors and a number of misplays. They looked every bit the team who has now lost seven straight.
As for the Mets, this 10-3 win was a glimpse at what could’ve been. With the exception of Alonso, their top six hitters reached safely at least twice.
Overall, this looked like a real postseason team. The shame of it is they likely won’t get there. Instead, we see them in the black jerseys and dream.
Game Notes: McCann hit what should’ve been an inning ending double play in the seventh. Instead, Gleyber Torres threw it away allowing two runs to score. Yennsy Diaz surrendered a solo homer to Anthony Rizzo in the ninth.
Báez created a run with his hustle and base running in the first, and then he homered in the third. He really accounted for all of the Mets runs.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 9, 2021
Through the first five, Stroman allowed just one hit. In the sixth, he got himself into trouble putting the first two on base, but he limited the damage to one run.
Through six-and-a-half innings, the Mets led 2-1. Luis Rojas stuck with his big game pitcher in the seventh. Sadly, the team failed the pitcher and manager (again).
Hand looked like the pitcher the Toronto Blue Jays released as he struggled to find the zone. Still, he limited the Marlins to just infield singles.
The bigger problem was Hand threw a ball he had no business throwing. He tried to get the speedy Lewis Brinson. Instead of eating it and leaving the bases loaded, his throwing error allowed Isan Diaz to score.
Of course, the Mets would find a way to compound that frustrating inning. After Pete Alonso tripled to lead-off the eighth, he would be left stranded there.
Parenthetically, there was criticisms of Rojas not allowing Davis to face Anthony Bender in last night’s loss. Rojas’ assessment that Bender”s velocity and slider was a bad match-up for Davis proved correct.
Long story short, this was just the latest in inexcusable losses, and if not for the other competition faltering, it would’ve proved to be a death knell for the Mets. Whatever the case, this is a highly flawed team who is going nowhere.
That obviously fell really flat because Mets fans were angry. The Mets blew a lead and dropped to third place. They were playing poorly and so was Alonso.
Since that point, things got worse before they got better. They’d get annihilated by the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants falling to five games under .500 and 8.0 games back in the division.
Things have changed recently with the Mets being the hottest team in baseball. They’re back to one game over .500, and they’re in the thick of the division and Wild Card races.
Alonso has been a big reason why.
Since making his speech, he’s hit .346/.403/.682 with eight doubles, two triples, eight homers, and 21 RBI. In that stretch, Alonso would hit his 100th and 101st homers.
WOW! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/vJYRhGg8Jm
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 7, 2021
Over this stretch, Alonso has a 186 wRC+, which is eighth best in the majors. His 1.5 fWAR over this stretch is also eighth best. He’s really gone off in September with a 265 wRC+, which is second best in the NL.
Whatever the reaction to the speeches and positivity, the most important one was Alonso’s. He’s putting this team on his back offensively, and he’s trying to power the Mets into the postseason.
As of the moment, Fangraphs has the Mets with a 6.3% chance of winning the division and an 8.8% chance of making the postseason. As long as Alonso keeps hitting like this and keeps backing up his words, you should like those chances.