Take a knee, everybody. I’m going to talk to you about the Mets. But unlike every other person who has ever written about them, I’m not going to grade the team while we sit at the All-Star break. Odds are, you don’t even remember some of the people who’ve been on this team so far this season, so why assign a grade to Danny Muno or Jack Leathersitch or David Wright (who is shockingly still alive according to reports)? But I’ll put my own, personal, heartfelt touch on a first-half review and see if I can predict what will happen from now until October.
I can’t remember a first half that has featured as many high highs and low lows as this one. From barging out of the gate, rolling an 11 game win streak, not scoring a run for what felt like a full-term pregnancy, looking like they were getting it together only to fall apart in even more spectacular fashion, this season has been the proverbial “awful sex with a really hot girl”. Sure, it looks good on paper (or bedpost), but it’s really unsatisfying and you’re left alone at 3 AM eating a pack of Rainbow Chips Deluxe reviewing it over and over and trying to convince yourself that maybe it WAS really good and your expectations were too high. Were they too high? Maybe. Could it have been better? I mean, yeah, definitely. Was it completely worthless? No. Because you knocked down that hot broad and your friends don’t have to know that it sucked.
But the Mets aren’t that hot broad. They’re the girl that looks great in make-up through the smoke and strobe lights of a Saturday night at Sound Factory (dating myself, I know), but the next morning, you wake up and go, “Whoa…so that’s what I fucked, eh?” That’s how I feel whenever I read the team’s lineup: So that’s what I fucking cheer for, eh?
Despite a firecracker (more like a flickering lightbulb) of an offseason that featured a nonsensical signing of Michael Cuddyer after he’d been giving the qualifying offer by the Rockies and then…nothing else, the Mets got bombarded by injuries, often fielded a lineup better fitted in Tidewater and somehow managed to get to the All Star break at a mere two games behind the division-leading Nationals and only one back of the Cubs for the second Wild Card spot.
We’ve seen an incredible performance by just about everybody (not named “Torres”) who classifies as a pitcher on the roster and have been kept in almost every game due to the depth and talent featured in our collection of arms. On the flip side, we’ve been forced to endure what is an absolutely putrid and paper-thin offense that you almost feel has no chance of coming back if the opposing team is able to scratch even one run across.
The fanbase has seen the evolution of Jacob deGrom from Rookie of the Year to dominating ace. We’ve been privy to the excitement of seeing the team’s two biggest prospects – Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz – make their debuts. We’ve endured season-altering injuries to David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud, Daniel Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud again. And we’ve seen the emergence of Jeurys Familia to shutdown closer in the wake of Jenrry Mejia’s suspension for PEDs.
If you would have told me that the Mets would not only be in contention, but in a position to really make a run in the second half in March, I would have signed up in a heartbeat. But I can’t help but think that, despite their solid position in the standings, they could have been better. A few hits here or there or maybe even a few of those really rare things called runs and it’s totally conceivable that the Mets could be leading the division right now while the Nationals continue to deal with a combination of injuries and a possible lack of that intangible that makes a winner a winner.
So with that said, let’s go over my three favorite moments from the first-half that I can think of off the top of my head. The way I see it, if I can’t think of it, it wasn’t that important. The important shit stands out.
The 11 Game Winning Streak
Seriously, this was just the fucking best and probably the most fun we’ve had as fans since that 9-1 West Coast trip in 2006 where we realized that, not only were the Mets good, they were fucking beasts. That may not have ended the way we wanted and this season probably won’t either, but sometimes you just have to appreciate the good moments while they’re happening.
Jacob deGrom takes a Perfect Game into the 6th against the Padres
OK, OK, OK. I know what you’re gonna say. Why the fuck does a guy losing a perfect game in the sixth stand out? Simple: I was genuinely shocked that the Padres were able to get anything when they did. Sometimes you see games like the Johan Santana no-hitter, where the pitcher is clumsily making his way through and it seems all but a matter of time before his shot at history goes kaput. But when it’s finished, you’re ecstatic, not just because it happened, but because you’re surprised he was able to finish with what seemed like lackluster stuff. On that night in June, deGrom seemed to be unfuckwithable and the Padres might as well have been swinging silly straws. So, sure, it may have only been a two-hit shutout on paper, but you don’t see utter dominance like that everyday and it was goddamn exciting.
Going against the team’s normal operating procedure, the Mets chose to allow top-prospect and Long Island native, Steven Matz, to make his major league debut at home. Matz went on to have one of the best all around debuts we’ll ever see, but the lasting image will be his grandfather slapping himself in the head after Steven drove his second hit of the day to plate a pair. It was such an old-timey reaction and just perfect for the situation.
Wasn’t that fun? Oh, man. The triumphs! The horrors! But the feeling of community that we shared while it all unfolded. Sighhhh. Memories.
I But on to the second half.
As much as people will probably shit on me for this view, I’m not expecting much from the team in the second half. With Thor and Matz having made their debuts (and Matz’s injury) trading one of them for the impact bat sorely needed is harder to sell to the fanbase. But, even more than that, the one impact bat we knew we needed earlier in the year may not be enough anymore.
As much as the team continues to sell the return of David Wright, I’m looking at him at a complete write-off until further notice. If/when he does return, in what capacity will it be? I’m not a doctor and I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about timetables for this kind of injury, but one thing I do know is that once you have one back injury, you’re fucked. David Wright, as we knew him, is most likely done barring some kind of Christmas miracle. Third base, which we thought was locked up for the near future, is suddenly very available.
Shortstop still needs to be filled. Since moving Wilmer Flores to second base, Ruben Tejada has done an admirable job of handling short, but he shouldn’t be an everyday player. Also, the outfield is a mess with Michael Cuddyer looking like a grayer Jason Bay and Juan Lagares having dropped off considerably whether from what’s an obvious issue with his elbow or just simple regression.
Point is, there’s a lot of holes in this lineup and I have a hard time believing the front office is going to make the moves needed to fill some of them which is disheartening when you think of how dangerous a team the Mets could be in a short series with the starting pitching they now have.
So, for the interim, it seems like more make-up and strobe lights to help mask the face of this team. I’d like to be wrong, but after coming this far to develop prospects and finally seeing some of them turn into viable major leaguers, I really can’t see Sandy Alderson start dealing away the minor league depth we (think, hope) we have at this point.
And that’s the worst part. We’re in striking distance right now and as bad as we’ve looked at certain points, the team is still right in the thick of things both in the division and Wild Card races. If 2006 taught us anything, it’s that, sometimes, you only get one chance. Let’s hope the team sees that and strikes.