While not specifically called as such, Will Sammon and Tim Britton of The Athletic wrote an autopsy of the 2023 New York Mets season. It was an excellent article with players being more open and honest than usual. It should be noted no one was attacking other players or throwing anyone under the bus.
Keeping that in mind, while reading the article, it became glaringly obvious Buck Showalter was the wrong manager for this 2023 Mets team.
The key quote out of the whole article was Tommy Pham saying, “Out of all the teams I played on, this is the least-hardest working group of position players I’ve ever played with.”
People will run a million different directions on this, but Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo were at least receptive and took it to heart and improved. Notably, we have seen Lindor and Nimmo have big second halves. Putting player reaction aside, this is an indictment on Showalter.
This was the sort of theme with why the season failed. The players weren’t working hard enough. There were miscues. The play was sloppy. The team was doubting themselves. They had a manager who didn’t have the pulse of the team.
When the team was holding player meetings pushing better play and accountability, Showalter had a rah-rah meeting the following day. His players were too comfortable with some being too complacent. There were mistakes, miscues, and as we would see with Max Scherzer unnecessary suspensions.
As noted by one unnamed player in the article, this is the sort of thing that comes into question when you don’t win. However, the Mets didn’t win, which allows these issues to be investigated.
For sure, Showalter isn’t the only reason the season failed. There was blame on the World Baseball Classic not allowing the team to adapt to new rules, but that also wasn’t the reason for the losing. There were the injuries, which were a major reason for the losing early on, and based on Adam Ottavino‘s comments, we saw the Edwin Díaz injury damaged the Mets psyche more than we ever appreciated (again, this is on the manager).
Again, we can point to injuries, but Showalter’s managing was an issue all season. Currently, we are seeing Mark Vientos mashing, but we had to watch Daniel Vogelbach flounder all season long. He was hands-off and being a rah-rah guy when players are talking about needing more accountability from one another.
If you wanted the reasons to look in another direction (Craig Counsell), it was detailed in that article. Keep in mind, this article was not a hit job or even directed at Showalter. However, when you have all that evidence, it is hard to ignore.
Francisco Álavarez‘s presence at the meeting with Pham, Lindor, and Eduardo Escobar about how to turn around the season speaks volumes to how he is viewed by his teammates. We heard stuff like this when he was in the minors, but it was interesting to see him quickly become not just a part of the fabric of the team, but to be a part of these leadership moments.
Fans have long pushed for Pete Alonso to be named captain, but Lindor and Nimmo are the unquestioned leaders of this team.
Alonso really cares, and he puts pressure on himself to succeed. If anything, his going into Showalter’s office is another reason why the Mets should be pushing for an extension.
Pham was great for the Mets, It wasn’t just his production, but it was seeking to hold everyone across the board more accountable. The Mets will be better for years to come because of Pham’s time spent with the team.
It would see Showalter leaned heavily on having Mark Canha, Escobar, and Starling Marte last year on a team full of leaders. With Canha pushed down the depth chart, Escobar traded, and Marte injured all year, Showalter was missing something he needed to have the team run as smoothly as it did last year.
The injuries and struggling to adapt to the new rules was certainly a factor (albeit probably small) in the need to pivot and move to younger players.
It was interesting Pham specifically said he had respect for Lindor and Nimmo and their work ethic with the article immediately going to Jeff McNeil saying “everyone comes ready to play and does what they need to do.” Immediately after that Nimmo says, “Ultimately, a lot of this comes down to individuals and what they’re willing to do.”
This was as interesting an juxtaposition as you can have, and you do have to wonder how purposeful the presentation was.
Mostly, it was injuries that hampered the Mets with the team not having the pitching depth it did in 2022. It will now be incumbent on Billy Eppler to work with David Stearns to make sure a season like 2023 does not happen again.
In 2022, Jose Butto was pressed into action by the New York Mets, and the results weren’t good to say the least. In his one start, he allowed seven runs in four innings against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The start generated a number of reactions from fans. For the most part, the general reaction from Mets fans was that Butto was not a real prospect, and he was never going to make it.
Now, Butto seemed to solidify the case of the naysayers while pitching with Triple-A Syracuse this season. Over 19 starts, he was 3-7 with a 5.93 ERA. One of the key reasons was his 4.8 BB/9 and his inability to develop a third pitch.
However, something funny happened with Butto. With the trades of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander along with the season (perhaps career) ending injury to Carlos Carrasco, Butto was pressed into action.
While Butto’s stats didn’t merit the opportunity, he got the opportunity because this was a lost season for the Mets. In many ways, it was for him as well. However, now, you cannot say the same for Butto. He got his chance, and he has put himself into the conversation for 2024.
Over his past three starts, Butto has pitched very well. While you may want to discount the start against the also ran Washington Nationals, the recent starts against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins deserve real attention with both teams fighting tooth-and-nail for the Wild Card.
He earned his first career win limiting the Diamondbacks to one run over five innings. He followed that up with an even more impressive performance. He struck out seven Marlins while limiting them one run over six innings.
Suddenly, there is talk about Butto being a part of the Mets rotation in 2024, or more likely, his being a part of the pitching staff.
What we are learning is his fastball/change-up will play at the Major League level. That combination was what powered a strong 2021 season, had him added to the 40 man roster (to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft), and put him on the Mets top prospect lists.
Now, that isn’t generating a big strikeout rate, but it is helping him avoid barrels. He’s holding opposing batters to a .274 SLG. Part of the reason is he has a high spin rate on his fastball. Another factor at play is his work with Jeremy Hefner, who has helped pitchers with similar stuff succeed with both the Mets and Minnesota Twins.
Now, there is nothing to say that Butto can repeat this success next year or even the rest of this season. Moreover, there is still a real question whether Butto can stick in the rotation or would need to move to the bullpen at the Major League level.
What we can say is the belief Butto was a prospect who could succeed in the majors was not in error. We are now seeing it. Having now seen it, we should be mindful that prospects take time and sometimes need to be beaten up and demoted before they succeed. That is true for Butto, and it will be true for many prospects which come after him.
The New York Mets recognized they were not going to win in 2023. As a result, they had a fire sale (even if they don’t want to call it one) trading away Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Dominic Leone, Tommy Pham, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander. That was then followed by reports the Mets are not going to try to win a World Series in 2024, but promised to put out a team which could contend for the Wild Card.
With that the rest of the 2023 season is about the future. To some degree, we have already seen that with Francisco Álvarez surpassing Omar Narváez as the Mets primary catcher, and Brett Baty continuing to work through a tough rookie season. The Mets took it a step further with Buck Showalter actually allowing Mark Vientos to DH against Zack Greinke instead of turning to Daniel Vogelbach.
With the trades, Starling Marte on the IL, and Brandon Nimmo having a quad issue during batting practice, we saw DJ Stewart, Danny Mendick, and Rafael Ortega in the lineup. Putting aside the Mets now trying to finish in the bottom six to preserve their draft position, those players being in the lineup, let alone on the roster, does not fortify the Mets plans to build for the future.
Seeing those players in the lineup and the Mets fire sale, it is now time to call up Ronny Mauricio.
Now, is Mauricio ready for the majors? Well, in all honesty, the answer is probably not. He still only has a 5.7 BB%, which is an improvement over what he posted in Doube-A Binghamton last season. His strikeout rate is down as well. Meanwhile, he is struggling to find a defensive home away from shortstop.
To a certain degree, we can argue Mauricio has gotten as far as he could in Triple-A. He is still very much the aggressive hitter now that he was to start the season. In fact, he’s very much the same player he was all of last season. At this point, it may just be that Mauricio needs to see Major League pitching to see what he needs to do to become a Major Leaguer.
Put another way, maybe it is time to let Mauricio fail. Let him go struggle against Major League pitching and see he needs to be more patient and/or more selective at the plate. Let him start to learn the lesson it took Jose Reyes nearly four seasons to learn. Get him on the right path and don’t let him go down the same path Amed Rosario did.
If the Mets were contenders, there is no room for learning on the job. However, they’re not contending. Quite the opposite.
For the moment, the Mets have to determine how to better use the final months of the season. Should they completely waste the playing time on players like Stewart, Mendick, and/or Ortega, or do they give Mauricio a shot? Do they let him learn what it takes to be a Major League player while getting the benefit of Major League coaching as he tries to continue to adapt as a hitter while learning new positions,.
The Mets are now looking to win in 2025, which means their young players need to start taking leaps in 2024. The best way to help that process is to get Mauricio learning how to be a Major Leaguer now. He’s done all he is going to do in Triple-A, and now, it is time for him to start learning what he can only learn in the majors.
On June 28, Steve Cohen had a press conference to address the New York Mets disappointing season. He let everyone know that while the fans (and some of the media) believed Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter should have been fired for their part in the season, Cohen assured us that is not the way he planned on running the Mets as a business. The money quote was:
I’m a patient guy. Everyone says, “Fire this person, fire that person.” But I don’t see that as a way to operate.
If you want to attract good people to this organization, the worst thing you can do is be impulsive and win the headline for the day. Overall, over time, you’re not going to attract the best talent. You’re not going to want to work for somebody who has a short fuse. Listen, I know fans, they want something to happen. I get it. But sometimes, you can’t do it because you have long-term objectives.
The gist of what Cohen was saying is no one wants to come work for you if you’re going to be impulsive in how you do business. He literally said this is not the best way to attract the best talent to your organization. Now, we’re only led to believe this applied to the GM and manager but not the players.
Justin Verlander started the season on the IL. In his first seven starts with the Mets, he was not great to say the least. He was 2-3 with a 4.85 ERA. He had allowed six runs to the Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies. Certainly, given his age, you did start to wonder if he was ever going to be anything resembling Verlander.
However, he turned it on and has looked every bit the future Hall of Famer he is. Over his last nine starts, he is 4-2 with a 1.95 ERA. He was flat out dominant over his last three starts allowing two earned over 19 1/3 innings.
While this season was a massive disappointment for the team, Verlander was looking like the ace the Mets hoped they were getting. With that ace in place, the Mets were well positioned to have a contending team in 2024. However, instead, the Mets decided to tear it all down, ad part of that was sending Verlander back to the Astros. They may not want to call it a rebuild or fire sale, but they’re acting like it is.
In fact, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Max Scherzer was informed by Cohen and Eppler the team was now going to focus on contending in 2025 or 2026. Ironically, one of the decision makers for that process was Eppler who failed to build the type of bullpen depth that was needed in 2023 or even in 2022.
Of note, Cohen was fully behind Eppler, the same GM who could not win with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. On Ohtani, Scherzer (as well as the moves this trade deadline) all but confirmed the Met would not be players for perhaps the best free agent to ever hit the market.
Cohen speaks of wanting to attract the best talent, but he’s sending it out the door while keeping the mediocre at best talent at the helm to make franchise altering decisions. Remember, Scherzer and Verlander have won. Eppler never has, and you can start to argue he never will.
We can all have a real conversation about whether this was the right path for the Mets as an organization. Certainly, with the influx of top 100 talent, you could see these moves have the potential to pay dividends ten-fold. After all, the R.A. Dickey was a great trade which helped the Mets, but then again, we also remember Alex Ochoa.
Overall, Cohen is gambling on Eppler getting a lot right when he’s batting below the Mendoza Line for his career as a GM. Cohen has opted to back Epper and Showalter who have never won a thing while sending out the guys who have won and know what it takes to win.
Cohen sold us a vision for organizational stability as a path to getting the people here needed not only to win a World Series, but also to have sustained success. A little over a month later the stability is gone with the future Hall of Famers walking about the door with players like Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo publicly questioning what the direction of the franchise will be.
Cohen has all the money in the world to make the Mets contenders. He did that in 2022, and with some luck, that might’ve been the case in 2023. Certainly, he could’ve and should’ve done that in 2024. Instead, we get Eppler’s vision which failed with the Angels and failed this year.
When the New York Mets signed Max Scherzer, there were visions of at least one World Series title. Scherzer leaves without so much as an NLDS appearance, and he has his share of the blame there.
Still, the Scherzer signing was great for the Mets.
Early on and for most of 2022, Scherzer was exactly the co-ace the Mets thought they were getting. Actually, he was their sole ace as Jacob deGrom missed most of that season.
In 23 starts, he was 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA, 0.908 WHIP, 1.5 BB/9, and a 10.7 K/9. He had a 167 ERA+ and a 2.62 FIP. These are terrific numbers.
However, we didn’t exactly see it as such. Part of the reason was the usually durable Scherzer was nicked up all season and battled an oblique injury. The other was how he finished the year.
When the Mets needed him against the Braves to help them win the NL East, he took the loss after allowing four over 5 2/3. That game and the sweep pushed the Mets into hosting the San Diego Padres in the Wild Card Series.
Scherzer got the ball in Game 1, and he was terrible. The Padres were up 3-0 after two, and Scherzer would impose in the fifth. All told. He allowed seven over 4 2/3.
The belief is Scherzer was hurt but was pitching through it. Whatever the result, he was ineffective in his two biggest starts. That said, he was a driving force for the Mets winning 101 games.
The 2023 season didn’t work out for him. He again dealt with injuries despite taking steps to try to avoid it. There was also the nonsense suspension for “using sticky substances.”
Through 19 starts, he was 9-4 with a 4.01 ERA, 1.189 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 10.1 K/9. He allowed more homers than ever. He mostly struggled.
In 2022, he was a driving force for that postseason team. In 2023, Scherzer was a reason why the Mets faltered. Despite that, he wanted to talk to the team about his and the team’s future.
Acuña is a top 100 prospect, who is closer to top 50. He is probably the Mets top prospect, and he should reach the majors next year. It’s an incredible get.
At this point, we can say Scherzer’s Mets career was disappointing. He didn’t help the Mets win a World Series, and Scherzer had his share of the blame by failing in his two biggest starts.
However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good signing. In fact, it was a great signing.
Because the Mets signed Scherzer, they got an ace in 2022 who helped lead them to 101 wins and the top Wild Card spot. The following season, they were able to flip him for a top 100 prospect while freeing up nearly $20 million towards the 2024 payroll.
Put another way, the Mets are far better off as an organization for signing Scherzer. They made the postseason in 2022, and they flipped him for a top prospect.
The Scherzer signing made the Mets better. We all wanted better, but it didn’t. Instead they got a playoff run and a top prospect. In the end, that’s what maker this a great signing
Just when you got good vibes going with the New York Mets winning six in a row to open July, they enter the All Star Break losing two in a row. The Saturday loss wasn’t that bad as you knew it was going to be a tough game.
The Mets started David Peterson, who battled and kept the Mets in the game. They had Pete Alonso and Francisco Alvarez up as the tying run in the ninth, but Josh Hader was better. You tip your cap and move onto the next game.
The next game was the real problem.
After what seemed like a resurgence, Max Scherzer again wasn’t good. The struggling Manny Machado tagged him with a three run homer in the first inning. This wouldn’t prove to be one of those get the ace early because he’ll shut you down moments because Machado would hit a two run homer against Scherzer in the fifth.
The Mets offense sputtered, and this time Joe Musgrove didn’t need an oil slick on his ears to do it.
Tommy Pham went down with an injury. Buck Showalter made sure to bat one of his old Baltimore Orioles, DJ Stewart, above Alvarez and Brett Baty. Really, no one was particularly good on the day, and Brandon Nimmo continues to be mired in an 0-for-20 stretch. He’s also 3-for-30 in July.
To a certain extent, these last two games might have caused fans needless hand-wringing. We did get a little excited with the winning streak, especially with it coming against good teams. We thought there might be a glimmer of hope that the Mets were getting back into the race. With the way the starting pitching was going, there was good reason for it.
As it stands now, the Mets are 18.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves. They are also seven games back in the Wild Card. They trail five teams for that last Wild Card spot including the San Diego Padres who leaped ahead of the Mets after this series.
It’s too much to say this series ended the season. After all, their putrid June probably did that. Rather, this might’ve just been another nail in the coffin. No, it’s not over, and we have seen stranger things happen (1973, 2016). However, it is a series like this that should have us temper our expectations until further notice.
Right now, the New York Mets are 34-40. They’ve recently lost a home series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Good luck finding hope for this season.
The Mets are 13.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. They’re seven games back in the Wild Card.
Only the St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, and Colorado Rockies have a worse record than the Mets. The Mets have lost a series to all three of those teams.
Mark Canha and Tommy Pham are playing well lately. They give a team a veteran bat and presence. Daniel Vogelbach is hot of late, so you can hope he can keep it going until another GM is dumb enough to trade for him.
Point is there are assets, and there could be teams looking to trade sooner rather than later. After all, teams like San Diego and Seattle are always desperate to make a trade.
For various reasons, the Mets just shouldn’t expect much in return. We’re not talking about game changing players, and Billy Eppler is the Mets GM. Maybe if Steve Cohen eats some money, they can maximize the returns.
In reality, you’re not doing this for the lottery ticket prospect. Mostly, you’re doing it for the prospects and young players who are here.
Mark Vientos should at least be the DH. Ronny Mauricio should now get the call-up to play whatever position he is going to play. You need them to get acclimated to the majors and be ready to take on a big role in 2024.
You need to let David Peterson finish the season in the rotation. It’s time to see if he can be a fifth starter, reliever, or look to cut bait. After all, they’re effectively doing that already with Tylor Megill (he’s really a reliever).
Maybe take a glance at Luke Ritter. Sure, he’s an older prospect with very little Triple-A experience, but he’s breaking out this season. After all, what do you have to lose? Games? They’re doing that already.
Mets have to find out about these young players. They need to make it beyond impossible for Buck Showalter to sit them.
Maybe they surprise you like the Cincinnati Reds are surprising everyone. Likely, they won’t, and the Mets will falter. However, it’s better to falter with young players getting experience than watching this.
It’s time to start selling.
It had gotten to the point where it was no longer whispers. It was now fair to question if Max Scherzer was no longer a top of the rotation type starter.
Pick your reason. Pitch clock. With the ejection, maybe more scrutiny with his hands. Injures. Certainly, age.
Whatever the case, Scherzer wasn’t the pitcher this year he was in his career. He wasn’t even close to the pitcher he was until his last few starts of last year.
Through his first 10 starts, he was 5-2 with a 4.45 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, and a 9.5 K/9. His FIP was 4.36.
There have been some glimpses of the Scherzer of his prime. Mostly, he’s had some unexpectedly poor starts getting hit harder than he ever has been. His pitches are a hair slower.
All told, Scherzer has not been Scherzer. At least, he wasn’t that until his start against the reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros.
Scherzer was effective and economical. It’s a big reason why he was able to go eight innings throwing only 91 pitches.
Scherzer struck out eight and only allowed one earned on four hits and a walk. The Astros were completely dominated.
There are some caveats here. The Astros are in a stretch where they played 23 games over 24 days. Yordan Álvarez is on the IL.
Make all the excuses you want to make. None of those excuses made Scherzer fix his slider. That slider was nearly unhittable as evidenced by the Astros meager display.
More than anything, the Mets needed that. It’s been their vaunted rotation that has let them down this year. In many ways, Scherzer is the poster boy for that.
He could also be the poster boy for a Mets resurgence. If Scherzer is the pitcher he was against the Astros, the Mets are formidable again.
We can buy Scherzer turning his season around and being the pitcher he was against the Astros because he has been that pitcher in his career. That was the pitcher the Mets signed and built their World Series aspirations around.
The Mets needed Scherzer to be great against the Astros. He was. Now, they just need him to be Scherzer for the rest of the season.
For the second time this season, a New York Mets pitcher was thrown out of a game for having an illegal substance on their hands. Both times, there was an MLB official involved.
With Max Scherzer, he was told to clean his hands because of the rosin residue. He would wash his hands in the presence of an MLB official. When Scherzer returned to the game, he would be thrown out for having an illegal stick substance on his hand.
What was interesting with Scherzer was David Cone did an experiment on Sunday Night Baseball which effectively exonerated Scherzer. In essence, he showed how what Scherzer claimed was absolutely true, and yet, Scherzer was still suspended.
In the opener of the Subway Series, the umpires did a check of Drew Smith before the top of the seventh. Umpire Bill Miller determined Smith’s hands were too sticky and ejected him from the game. After the game, Miller would say he didn’t know what the substance was, just that Smith’s hands were too sticky.
Ron Darling was frustrated asking for a standard to be put in place. This might be more fantasy than reality. It’s really difficult to adopt a uniform standard, and that is part of the shortsightedness of MLB implementing this rule.
However, that’s not the most troubling part of all of this. The most troubling part is an MLB official did not find Smith’s hands sticky in a post-ejection inspection.
Drew Smith says he had an MLB official check his hands in the tunnel after his ejection.
He says the official laughed and said there was "nothing there." pic.twitter.com/Vc1AfdCxA3
— SNY (@SNYtv) June 14, 2023
Now, there is the caveat here that either Smith or the MLB official was not exactly being truthful. That said, it is alarming Smith was told there was nothing there after he was ejected. If the timeline of events are correct, Smith would not have even had an opportunity to clean his hands before this post-ejection suspension.
With Scherzer, an MLB official supervised and approved the hand washing. With Smith, an MLB official said there was nothing on Smith’s hands.
Of course, the obvious point here is that there is an MLB official right there. Why is that official not performing these substance checks?
The MLB official has the opportunity to see if there is anything illicit happening. The MLB official can easily check hands before or after an inning without any of the theater we see now. For a league hyper focused on pace of play, it would also make the game move just that much quicker.
We can also get more checks with that official able to do it each and every inning. Yes, that would also mean a need for an official in the bullpen. With Major League Baseball having record revenues that should not be an issue at all.
The end result would be the promise of a more unified standard for ballparks because you get the same person checking every time, and that person can be trained specifically for this one area. You also get more testing resulting in the appearance of a fairer game with less foreign substances. Moreover, you get the game moving slightly quicker by ending the umpires periodic checks.
Really, there is no reason why this isn’t happening. At a minimum, you take away the ability for players to claim the MLB official cleared them creating less drama and frustration with the sport. Overall, you’re just making the game better.
The first Subway Series was 1997, and it had all of New York enthralled. There was the upstart New York Mets led by Lance Johnson, Bernard Gilkey, and Todd Hundley, against the defending World Series champion New York Yankees.
The first Subway Series did something rare in sports. It exceeded the hype. Dave Mlicki is still a Mets legend for the complete game shutout to open the series culminated with striking out Derek Jeter to end the game.
The Mets would spoil a David Cone no-hit bid in the series finale and almost pull out a win. While the concept of the Mets and Yankees being rivals was a bit forced at the outset, we did see the beginnings of a rivalry.
The rivalry reached its apex in the 2000 World Series and with all the drama surrounding Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens. There was a lot more to it like former Mets greats like Cone, Dwight Gooden, and Darryl Strawberry returning to Shea.
Mostly, it was Bobby Valentine who knew the Mets underdog status. He embraced it, and he treated those games like they were must win. Typically, they were for him as it was usually a marker for how the Mets were performing that season.
Since 2000, we have seen the series go through ebbs and flows. There have been moments like the Luis Castillo dropped fly ball or Carlos Delgado‘s power display. Of course, there was the Shawn Estes/Clemens drama.
All that said, this series has never been the same since 2000. In reality, this series has never been at a lower point than it is right now.
The Yankees are in third place and nine games back of the Tampa Bay Rays, but they do have a half-game lead in the Wild Card race. The Mets are in fourth place, are four games under .500, and they trail by three games in the Wild Card race.
The Yankees are without Aaron Judge. The Mets are without Pete Alonso. The ticket prices are through the roof, and Citi Field still has not sold out the game. It’s also a two game set making the possibility of the teams walking away with a somewhat uninteresting split.
On the bright side, we are going to see Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander. The Baby Mets of Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos will get their first taste of this series, and more importantly, put their stamp on this series.
We may very well see competitive games with a number of storylines emerge. However, in the past, the storylines were already written because of all the intrigue surrounding the series. That intrigue is seemingly gone for now.