This is my first post since Spring Training began. It’s been that kind of year. The 2018 Mets started off red-hot and then went oh-for-June, which effectively ended their season. The fans grumbled, the press made fun, and the team essentially put a “For Sale” sign on the few productive veteran players that could still suit up.
But a funny thing happened after the calendar flipped to July. The Mets started to play better. Slowly, almost imperceptively at first, several players began to turn it around. There were steps back to be sure, like that nightmare in DC, but they started to gain a bit of traction. Fast forward to this past week, when the suddenly dangerous Mets knocked the Dodgers out of first place, probably spoiled the Phillies’ chances of reaching the post season, and are creeping up on the equally disappointing Nationals for third place in the NL East. Not exactly baseball like it oughta be, but certainly an intriguing development.
I’m starting to push 60, but I still have quite a bit of “Fan Boy” in me about the Mets. On the flip side, I have been rooting for them since 1971, leaving me little more than just a little cynical about their future. So, what kind of dialog ensues when Dan the Fan Boy and Dan the Old Cynic join the same Mets chat room in some corner of my brain?
Fanboy: The Mets will let David Wright and Jose Reyes man the left side of the infield one more game together before the end of the season, and then hold a very nice retirement press conference for them early in the offseason.
Old Cynic: No chance. David Wright will continue to attempt his “one last try.” Jose will further tarnish his legacy by telling his agents he’s open to a minor league deal. Don’t count out the Mets taking him up on that offer.
Fanboy: Amed Rosario and Jeff McNeil will combine to be the best 1-2 top of the batting order since the days of Dykstra and Backman. Defensively, they are the best keystone combo since Rey-O and Fonzie.
Old Cynic: It been a nice half a year for both players, but I need to see a few more good months of out McNeil in 2019 before I anoint him as the starting second baseman. Rosario alternated between looking really good and making some fundamentally unsound plays. Is that his youth, or the poor Mets player development system showing? The “best keystone combo since Rey-O and Fonzie” is more of an indictment against the Mets than an endorsement of Rosario and McNeil.
Fanboy: Zack Wheeler finally realized his potential. Between he, Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard, this is the best 1-2-3 rotation in baseball. And, if manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland can complete Steven Matz’ turnaround, we’ll have four aces.
Old Cynic: One (painful) word: Injuries.
Fanboy: Peter Alonso will supply the Mets with the kind of power they haven’t seen since Cespedes was in his prime. His righty bat will be bracketed by lefties Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto to form a left-right-left homegrown power trio in the middle of the order for the next few years. Put Todd Frazier in the 6-hole and they have a good lineup, one through six.
Old Cynic: It would have been nice to have seen Alonso get some at-bats in September. Plus, he hit about half of all those homeruns in the PCL, which is a notorious hitter’s league. Your 3-4-5-6 of the order will cool off the fans on humid nights with all that fanning. And, they’re just going to give up on Dom Smith? What happens to the beloved Wilmer? I can’t wait to hear about your plans for Jay Bruce.
Fanboy: The San Francisco Giants have Mark Melancon, an overpriced former closer that they don’t need. The Mets need a closer. The Giants have already cut bait with Andrew McCutchen and are losing Hunter Pence to Free Agency. They need outfield help. The Mets have Jay Bruce, who is making nearly as much as Melancon. The Mets don’t need Bruce anymore. The two teams should work out a trade for these contracts. We don’t need Melancon to close, except in emergencies.
Old Cynic: Yes, the Giants will need outfield help, but Bruce is absolute toast. They finally got rid of Pence, so now they’re going to sign up for two more years of poor production? They can just stash MM in the bullpen the way you want to, and go with Will Smith to close. By the way, who closes for the Mets in this scenario? Anthony Swarzak?
Fanboy: Drew Smith, Daniel Zamora, Gerson Bautista, Bobby Wahl, Tim Peterson, Eric Hanhold, Jamie Callahan, Tyler Bashlor, and Jacob Rhame can’t all be flops. Most of them had great minor league stats, and for the most part, they showed flashes in the bigs. They throw gas. If just two of ‘em come through…
Old Cynic: All of those names, except Wahl, are Sandy Alderson acquisitions. If we learned anything from his seven years as GM, it’s that he can’t build a bullpen to save his life. I’ll give you Jerry Blevins, but remember Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco, DJ Carrasco, Victor Black, and Jose Valverde? Don’t forget Swarzak. Plus, we got most of those guys in trades when we dumped veteran salaries. How much value did these pitchers really have to their former teams?
Fanboy: Juan Lagares really looked sharp in the 30 games he played. He’s in the last year of his contract, so he will be very motivated to stay on the field, bringing a gold glove and some speed to the everyday lineup.
Old Cynic: You’ve heard of the definition of insanity, right?
Fanboy: Callaway has already stated that he wants Seth Lugo in the rotation. With the other four spots taken, it’s between Lugo and Jason Vargas. The Mets will just have to swallow hard and release Vargas, giving his spot to Lugo.
Old Cynic: The Mets will never cut bait with Vargas, a signing they never should have made in the first place. Plus, doesn’t Lugo have a tear in a ligament on his pitching arm somewhere?
Fanboy: The Mets should sign Yasmani Grandal to a three-year deal. They can front-load it and offer him opt outs after the first two years.
Old Cynic: Yeah, a $50 million-dollar deal with $45M “frontloaded” in 2019. Seriously though, Grandal is just about the only full-time and effective catcher on the market. A lot of better-run and more willing to spend teams will be in on him. Unless we are willing to way overpay, I can’t see any reason why he would want to come here. Plus, if they’re giving Juan Lagares another go, why wouldn’t they give Travis d’Arnaud another chance as well?
Fanboy: The Phillies faded down the stretch, Washington is a mess, and Atlanta had a bunch of players have career years. The NL East can be wide open next year.
Old Cynic: Atlanta is going to be a dynasty; the Phillies have plenty of young, talented players and the Nats are going to full reload mode for Life After Harper. Get used to 4th place.
So, that’s what’s going on inside the Met portion of my brain these days. How about you, are you a fan boy (or girl) or an old(ish) cynic about the Mets next year?