Posted by Ernest Dove at 10:00 AM
So, after completing what may have been the most important series in about 9 years the Mets now take their talents to Hotlanta to take on the not-so-hot Braves. But I wanted to utilize this weekly post to talk a little more about what has occurred, how it has occurred, and how it important it may truly be that it is occurring.
After years of futility the Amazin's find themselves within a couple of weekly of securing the promised land of pure October baseball on the national stage. And, speaking of national, how about the team they just swept and what they may have learned from the experience, and also learned overall the past 3 years from the organization over there in DC.
Over the past 3 seasons, the Washington Nationals have averaged 93 wins. Including a highly successful 2013 campaign which brought out their highest fan attendance since becoming an actual DC franchise in 2005. And it also started and coincided with the return of new staff ace Stephen Strasburg in 2012, who was coming back from TJS. However, as we all know, the Nationals, even while looking around the league and seeing another NL east team putting their young post TJS arm in the April bullpen, the Nationals decided to ride their act from day 1. Strasburg responded with some strong starts, 28 in all, with an extremely solid and per usual high K rate, to go along with a very respectable ERA of 3.16. Then the interesting happened. The team went from a sub .500 2011 season to an incredible 98 win mark, well on their way to the playoffs. However, the team made the ultimate decision to not get crazy with skipped starts, 6 man rotations and some Jacob deGrom two week hiatus. No, the Nationals simply shut down their ace, very respectfully gave a really good reason involving the long term health of their top arm, and their thought process behind have a true legit arsenal of other young core players all signed up and under team control. But then a funny thing happened along the way. The Nats fell in the 2012 playoffs, perhaps had the sting carry over into a down 86 win season in 2013, and then boomed in 2014 with another huge 96 win season, but no world series appearance or title the speak of.
Now, none of this can possibly be truly seen as a downer for a franchise to go 3 straight winnings seasons (insert Mets jokes here). What I'm getting out is the full idea behind utilizing talent, when you have, as you have it, and as soon as you have it, without true regard for the 'future'. Because anything can and will happen. This includes an utterly dominant 7 innings of work from a still young arm going through a 2015 season with an ERA hovering just under 5.00. This also includes a core of young stars and high paid free agents who seemingly all took turns hitting the DL, not hitting at the plate, and not making plays defensively on the field. So what have the Mets learned here, and are they truly paying attention? Well, perhaps they have and are doing just that.
We can argue all day about the state of the Mets offense from mid April to the trade deadline, but the fact remains that an initial and amazin 11 game win streak carried their team throughout this time almost as much as Familia and the starters. And then came the deadline. And, regardless of misses, hits, almost guys, crying ballplayers and frustrations about money rumors, the Mets went out and acquired multiple major league veterans, many of whom have contracts larger then most of the 25 guys that were on the roster already, and completely transformed the roster, team, organization and vibe in the clubhouse and stands.
And so now enter the phase of the Strasburg situation with Matt Harvey. Regardless of all the talk and media frenzy, the fact remains that the organization does conceivably have a plan, and an ok from the Dark Knight, to have availability in the.....gulp......playoffs. Perhaps they could have used my crazy idea in a winter 2014 post and put Harvey in the bullpen. Perhaps they could have given him a couple of two week vacations. Maybe they could have put him on the DL with 'arm fatigue'. Either way, I believe have still learned something from the Nationals in this regard.
Lets also look at the offensive side of things. (I am in NO WAY comparing players in the following sentence)..... Perhaps have learned from the Nats by sticking with Michael Conforto as their Bryce Harper.
Bryce Harper, upon bursting onto the scene during the Nats started run in 2012, has basically been asked to play every day (minus numerous injuries getting in the way). Low and behold, the Mets, even despite all the possibly attempts to prevent the 22 year from showing up and staying, have now decided to at the very least play Conforto each and every day against right handers, which as know tend to be more prominent in MLB rotations. If you have a start in the making, lets find out. (insert Wilmer pro/con arguments and playing time here).
I bring all of this up to point at that I am completely on board with Mets seemingly going all in this year. Top prospects or not, the Mets have unloaded NUMEROUS pitching prospects, which shows in their latest top 25-30 prospect lists within the organization. They acquired mostly guys who can be labeled as 'rentals', including the biggest catch of them all in one Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets, in a 2015 playoff run, may be conceivably going with a pretty large percentage of players who will NOT be on the 2016 roster. Some because of money. Some because of age. Some because of both. Mostly because the Mets, like all teams, end up going in many different directions each year even with a nice young nucleus.
The Mets find themselves within earshot of reaching the promised land. The loved/hated manager is now throwing darts at a very large and friendly dart board showing a lot more high scoring points then its used to on it to aim form when choosing a lineup, and especially in September can trot out numerous righty lefty matchups in the lineup and in the bullpen (insert O'Flaherty insult here).
The bottom line is that the 'year of the Mets' may always be NOW, and not for the remainder of the decade, despite the ages and contract status' of their rotation and core players. I'm only considering 2015 as the year to go for broke. To go for the division title, to make the world series, and to win the series. I'm not saying they HAVE to win the series. I'm saying its right, appropriate, cool, and good management to go ALL IN for this chance to begin with.
The Mets will continue to have tough decisions to make here. They continue to look over at the Nationals, and see their tail spin. However, the Braves are a professional baseball team and I assume they won't lose every remaining game on their schedule. And the Phillies statistically I assume have a strong chance of winning a game or two from the Mets after a crazy start in their head to head matchups. But again I say look at the Nationals and what they are showing the Mets. A strong world series pick of everyone in MLB team can be injuries and poor performances away from missing out on their long term goals.
Bryce Harper is still only 22 years. But you know what, their arms are getting older and closer to free agency and end of arb status then they were back in 2012. Ian Desmond is a free agent. Strasburg, despite all the attempts to preserve a possible very successful career, is having one of his worst, at least statistically and simply by not being able to stay on the field to make a large number of starts.
The Mets can learn a lot from the Nationals, and their fans. A crazed Mets fan may claw, bite, scream and criticize, but they are probably more likely to stay in the park for all 9 innings to do it and not leave early. This is the year of the Mets. This is the year for their fans. And the Nats remain and continue to be the shining example of how important this season may be in the record books, minds of players, and memory of the fans.
The Nats showed their ability to spend spend spend in the free agent market with Max. The Phillies eventually will be rid of the 'age' in their lineup. The Marlins may get healthy and more consistencly from their youth. And the Braves will try to become locked and loaded for their pending arrival in their new ball park.
So the time is now for the Mets. It's in their grasp. They're playing happy. They're playing with passion. They have just stepped over the MLB favorites. And I believe they have learned a huge and valuable lesson which veterans like the Captain himself especially will take to heart during this current season and the fight to winning on the biggest stage right here and now, because there may be no tomorrow as far as playoffs. Right now, there's only today, tomorrow, and October 2015.