First Place and the Credibility Gap
So we’re in first place, but why aren’t we happy? That’s the question nobody seems able to answer. Opinions vary from “well, that’s Met fans for ya,” to Matthew’s “Just Get Over It” rant earlier today. Last June 5, the Mets where 28-32 and in fourth place. I remember the big jump between 1983 and 1984 and how exciting that was. So why so much gloom?
I think I know why and it’s part statistical analysis and it’s part gut-feel.
The Mets have four top-line players, all of them pitchers: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia and Bartolo Colon. Between them, Harvey, deGrom and Colon have 20 of the Mets 30 wins. They have a 1.19 WHIP in 305 innings, averaging a bit over one walk per 9-innings, while striking out a shade over seven batters over the same span. That is winning baseball. I am beginning to think that if Colon continues to perform at this level, he is worth being brought back for at least another year. I also loved his taking exception to his batting prowess recently in the Wall Street Journal. Colon’s physical characteristics aside, underneath beats the heart of a true warrior. Met history is somewhat light on this type of player.
Familia is in rarefied air right now. His WHIP is a microscopic 0.82 and he is averaging better than a strikeout per inning. Despite several five-out save assignments, he has allowed a grand total of one inherited runner to score on him. Walks are his only blemish, but he currently has the stuff to overcome these mistakes.
These four winning players are the reason the Mets hold a slim lead on the Washington Nationals. But its only four guys, not enough to push the team all the way into October. They will need more help. Just where that help is going to come from is the reason that I think most observant Met fans are holding their collective breath.
We see the very unlikable, unsympathetic (some would say crooked) owners and a double-speak, mainly do-nothing front office that on occasions has alternated between a mocking and a condescending tone. Neither inspires much confidence and have in fact generated the reverse effect. We remember the recent past, starting in September 2007, which has been the darkest and longest in Met history since the early 1980’s. We have no doubt been influenced by a steady stream of 24/7/365 Mets coverage, most of it extremely negative and have observed that many of the team’s wounds are self-inflicted.
We look at the rest of the roster: yes, Lucas Duda is on the verge of becoming an elite player, if he isn’t already there. But, Juan Lagares is a gold glover who doesn’t hit and Wilmer Flores is a potential silver slugger who doesn’t field. Travis d’Arnaud can’t stay healthy and the more cautious among us are not ready to anoint Noah Syndergaard as the next anything until he pitches several more times through the rotation. These are the “potential guys,” each demonstrating some degree of elevated performance, just not consistently or over an extended period of time.
Then, we watch as Curtis Granderson, Michael Cuddyer, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee continue to underperform. None of these four belong on a team that considers itself a contender, let alone inserted into key roles. The first two are those albatross signings that perhaps a less hubris-driven front office would be looking to move on from. The latter two are symbolic of the sclerotic inactivity (indecision?) that has plagued the Mets since the Sandy Alderson Era began.
Worst of all, most of us already see the last scene in this David Wright tragedy: A tearful retirement ceremony sometime in the middle of 2017, when this all-time great finally hangs them up.
What we sense coming is a missed opportunity. The Nationals are staggering a bit and the rest of the division isn’t as good as the Mets are, at least on paper. A bold move is needed now. I can’t stand Alderson telling us that trades aren’t made at this time of the season. That is untrue, just ask Mark Trumbo. Do something to help this team make the next level, bring up Steven Matz and waive an ineffective starter. Hell, bring up Michael Conforto and banish an underperforming outfielder. Get Duda some protection. Add some speed. Trade for Wright’s replacement. Just do something to improve the team and do it now.
Instead, it feels as this is just another stage of the con: move the goal posts, using an 84-85 win season as the springboard for selling tickets for the upcoming 2016 season. Meanwhile, cut as much fat as possible away from the payroll. We came oh so close in 2015, if only those injuries, etc. hadn’t occurred, they’ll say, but this year will be better and you’ll be glad you are there to see it.
There is a major credibility gap between the people that run the team and a large contingent of the fanbase. Most of the damage can be laid at the feet of Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons. A hot start (followed by some pretty uneven play since then) just isn’t enough to repair this breach. The next few weeks will be very telling on just how committed they are to winning as opposed to just taking our money.