Opening Day is always full of promise and fresh off their first World Series appearance in more than a dozen years, optimism among Mets fans was riding an all-time high. Going into the season the club looked impressive indeed.
At 1B you had the 30 HR power of Lucas Duda, a flawed but productive force in the middle of the lineup.
At 2B you had the newly acquired Neil Walker who could provide some power, some defense and rid the club of the contract of disgruntled Jon Niese.
At SS you had the free agent acquisition, Asdrubal Cabrera. While he’s never quite been able to repeat the All-Star caliber performance from a few years ago, he would solidify the middle infield defense and provide some power.
At 3B you had the Captain, David Wright, perennial All Star and once named the face of major league baseball.
Behind the plate you had Travis d’Arnaud, fresh off a campaign in which he was showing what he was capable of doing with 12 Hrs and 41 RBIs in less than a half season’s worth of Abs.
In LF last year’s top offensive Mets rookie, Michael Conforto, had some drawing wild praise for his potential, some scribes even going as far as to proclaim him the next Bryce Harper. I was a bit more circumspect, suggesting if he turned into the next Kevin McReynolds the Mets would have a left fielder for the next decade.
In CF was the last minute return of the 2015 team MVP, Yoenis Cespedes. His presence in the lineup was going to provide the right handed complement to protect Lucas Duda.
In RF you had the rejuvenated Curtis Granderson who quieted nearly all of his critics with a fine 2015 season in which he showed power and on-base abiility.
On the bench you had the surprisingly productive Wilmer Flores, veteran newcomer Alejandro De Aza, Gold Glover Juan Lagares, backup catcher Kevin Plawecki and AAAA hitter Eric Campbell.
In the starting rotation you had the formidable five – Matt Harvey, Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard, Steve Matz and the ageless Bartolo Colon.
In the bullpen you had closer Jeurys Familia backed up by Addison Reed, Jerry Blevins, newcomer Antonio Bastardo, Hansel Robles, reclamation project Jim Henderson and soft tossing Logan Verrett.
Well, the injury and incompetence woes hit the club with a vengeance and it’s almost unfathomable to see what’s become of that promising start.
The Walking Dead
- Lucas Duda – cracked bones in his back don’t heal overnight, yet the club didn’t make a long term plan until inking journeyman James Loney out of the AAA outpost in El Paso
- David Wright – perhaps Sandy Alderson’s greatest failing as a GM, it was clear that a Plan B was needed and when Wright’s neck flared shutting him down for the season the Mets were once again left exposed with the likes of Campbell, Kelly Johnson, Ty Kelly, Matt Reynolds and others given a shot at the hot corner until disgraced former All Star Jose Reyes was brought in on the cheap
- Juan Lagares – As too often happens in Queens, they downplayed an injury into something more severe. Now it appears he’s gone for the year as well
- Matt Harvey – anyone could see he wasn’t right, but the club kept trotting him out there again and again, costing them games and who knows what the continued strain did to Harvey’s body
- Steven Matz – in between some puzzling starts he’s shown flashes of the dominance that had him sail through the system. However, ongoing issues have shelved him more than once (and now potentially for the year)
- Zack Wheeler – first expected back in June, now he’s apparently shut down for the year
- Jim Henderson – a pitcher who spent more time on the DL than in uniform the past few years was a crap shoot at best and he has missed much of the season due to injury
- Yoenis Cespedes – this one is a shared mistake by the player and the ballclub. When it was clear Cespedes was hurt, he should have been disabled immediately so he would have the chance to heal. However, the club was struggling to score runs and he was just about the only major weapon left, so after playing shorthanded for quite some time he finally hit the DL but decided to play golf while rehabbing. No winners here.
Playing Like Zombies
- Michael Conforto – After an impressive debut Conforto hit the wall, getting pull happy and struggling around the Mendoza line. Despite the less-than-stellar performance, the club decided his 11/33/.218 was inferior to De Aza’s 4/13/.192 and sent him to AAA for the second time recently where he’s doing his best Ted Williams impression for the Las Vegas fans
- Kevin Plawecki – wow, here’s a guy who was given an extended look out of necessity due to the annual Travis d’Arnaud injury last year. It came out after the fact he had some off-season sinus surgery to repair a condition that left him feeling woozy most of the time. Apparently breathing better didn’t help much as he was dispatched to AAA for journeyman Rene Rivera from Las Vegas where Plaw has rebounded to hit .307.
- Eric Campbell – why he’s still on the 40-man roster is a mystery, but like Anthony Recker, Ruben Tejada, Eric Young, Jr. and others before him, he’s not likely going to make anyone wistful that he’s gone
- Alejandro De Aza – the poster child for sunk cost, he probably moped his way through the first part of the season where he went from projected starter to last outfielder off the bench. Inexplicably the manager keeps trotting him out there but he continues to cost the team with every AB
- Curtis Granderson – how the mighty have fallen, but he makes too much money for the club to consider other options (such as Michael Conforto). How he can have 20 homers but only 34 RBIs defies belief
- Travis d’Arnaud – while not quite as mighty, sandwiched around his annual injury d’Arnaud has been a major disappointment. He’s been on a tear lately and got his average up to replacement player level but it’s been a puzzling season that has the Mets thinking he may not be the long term answer behind the dish
- Antonio Bastardo – sometimes good players just can’t hack it when they change address. That seemed to be the case of Bastardo who was mercifully sent packing in a swap of bad contracts to reacquire Jon Niese
- Logan Verrett – I never understood the fascination with this guy and his homer-happy performance FINALLY got them to demote him a few weeks ago. Why is it that some players can have one bad game and ride the pines for a month while others get way too many chances?
- Jon Niese – it’s been pretty clear that he’s having the worst season of his entire career. Fortunately the Mets can simply buy him out for $500K at year’s end
I hesitate to spend too much time here lest I overdose on antacids. While other teams legitimately try to improve, the Mets seem content to pick from the scrap heap of other clubs in the hopes of the elusive lightning in a bottle
- Justin Ruggiano – he’s shown some pop but otherwise has had an undistinguished career worthy of his release earlier this year from the Rangers
- Jose Reyes – so the plan was to bring him back to play a position he’s never played without sufficient time in the minors to get back into playing shape and risk what little good faith the fans had by paying a domestic abuser to take the field. What could possibly go wrong? Expect him back in 2017, though, as he costs almost nothing.
- James Loney – more good than bad, but he’s hovering around .265 with no power and no speed. His defense at 1B has helped wash away memories of some other Dr. Strangegloves they’ve had out there, so there’s that. Hopefully he’ll parlay his modest success into a new gig elsewhere
- Erik Goeddel – when healthy, he’s been a productive reliever.
- Seth Lugo – a little too soon to tell, but with the again ailing Steven Matz on the shelf, he gets the call as the 4th starter
- TJ Rivera -- the new Wilmer Flores, he's done nothing but hit yet his .352 trial at the big league level had him headed back to AAA because the team had TOO MUCH OFFENSE?
- Jay Bruce – he went from leading the league in RBIs to people calling for his head in a space of about 3 weeks. He’s apparently caught whatever it is that afflicts all Mets hitters not named Cespedes
What To Do
This week in St. Louis is kind of a make or break period for the club. Winning on Tuesday helps, but even a sweep of the Cardinals keeps the Mets out of the post-season. The cavalry is not coming. Does the club have what it would take to advance to fall baseball?
IMHO, no it does not. They are beset by subpar performances, handicapped by bizarre lineup decisions and now their already fragile pitching staff has been Tonya Harding’d. The question is when will the club accept its fate and start planning for 2017 instead of toying with the notion of the post season?