After several years of mediocrity and losing records, the New York Mets are in 2nd place in the National League Eastern Division, just two games behind the front-running Washington Nationals. Equally impressive and encouraging for the team and its loyal fan base is the fact that the Mets are just one game behind the Chicago Cubs for the second wild card and a long overdue trip to the playoffs.
Eighty-nine games into the current season and the gang from Queens has a record of 47-42. Give these guys an “A” for a well-played and successful first half. However, it needs to be said that the Mets won thirteen of their first sixteen games and were only 34-39 after that.
Now, if that comes across as bad news, fans of the team need not panic. The truth is that the team’s best two players have been on the field very little this season. Captain David Wright hurt himself in Game #16 when he pulled a leg muscle. Expected to be out of action for only a few weeks, he was later diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a serious back ailment, and has not played since mid-April. That’s a huge loss for the team. Wright is its best offensive threat and his production has been sorely missed.
The same is true for Travis D’Arnaud, the team’s starting catcher and its second best hitter. He has been on the Disabled List twice and has only one hundred plate appearances.
Add to that the unsettling reality that two other key players, outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson have underperformed so far and it seems remarkable that this team finds itself in contention so deep into the season.
Clearly, offense has been a huge problem, due largely to injuries to key players, but also to the inescapable fact that too many men on the roster do not hit consistently. In truth, the Mets have been shut out ten times and have scored just one run in eleven other games.
So, how has this offensively-challenged team managed to stay close to the top? The answer should be obvious …
A superior pitching staff makes this team very dangerous. Baseball fans know that good pitching always stops good hitting. And the Mets have good pitching. No … make that GREAT PITCHING. Consider …
Graphic via sportsnetwork
The Mets count on Matt Harvey, a budding superstar. They have Jacob deGrom, last year’s Rookie of the Year and an All Star in 2015. These two starters have already established themselves as Aces, top-of-the-rotation pitchers.
They also have Zach Wheeler, on the shelf this season after having Tommy John surgery, but already a top pitcher based on his performance last year. Now, add this year’s editions, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, very young pitchers who have enjoyed almost immediate success and it’s clear that this team has something big going for it.
The question facing the Mets is: how do they eradicate their offensive woes, a team weakness? General Manager Sandy Alderson has to “pull the trigger” on a trade by giving up one or more of his young pitchers (from the minor leagues?) in exchange for a proven major league hitter. He might even have to try to get two proven hitters.
If he does that, he will have addressed a glaring weakness and this team will have a real chance in the second half. If he does nothing, fans will have to rely on blind faith and hope beginning as soon as the midseason break ends. That’s because the Mets will open the second half with three critically important series – against the Cardinals, the Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, all currently in first place.
Whether or not personnel changes are made to address the team’s weakness in the second half, Mets fans can expect entertaining and exciting baseball right up to game 162. There may even be a playoff appearance in store for the long-suffering faithful.
Graphic via baseballhotcorner