Welcome back to baseball, Mets Fans!
After the euphoric 2015 campaign, we went into 2016 with high hopes, only to come crashing down as Connor Gillaspe became this generation’s Mike Scioscia in the Wild-Card game. But even with all the injuries that almost derailed the 2016 season, we knew 2017 couldn’t possible be as bad. We were getting back Zack Wheeler and the pleasant surprises of 2016, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, would provide pitching depth. Hell, we had so many starting pitchers now, we let Big Sexy, Bartolo Colon, go.
Instead, 2017 was worse, much worse.
Noah Syndergaard, who was going to be the NL Cy Young in 2017, was gone after just 30 innings. Matt Harvey, returning from Thorcic Outlet Syndrome, was suspended because he broke up with his girlfriend and lost his ability to pitch at this level. Michael Conforto injured his shoulder just swinging the bat. We lost our closer, Jeuyrs Familia to a blood clot and Yoenis Cespedes only played half a season (81 games). Instead of saying “Brruuuccceeeee” for Jay Bruce, fans were booing him and he was traded at the deadline. So was Lucas Duda. The unbelievable depth at starting pitching the Mets had during spring training dissipated before our eyes day after day. Steven Matz was awful before finally being shut down. Wheeler finally came back from his 2015 Tommy John surgery after missing all of 2016 and started promisingly, but he had to be shutdown in July after a “stress reaction”. By the time the season was over, guys like Tommy Malone, Tyler Pill and Adam Wilk were starting games.
So after a 92 loss season miserable came to an end, heads just had to roll, starting with Terry Collins, Dan Warthen and some of the other coaches. Then the medical staff was axed. With a depleted farm system, the Mets need a lot of help at a lot of different positions and don’t have a lot of bullets left in the chamber. What’s a GM to do?
Although 2018 can’t possibly be as bad as 2017, wasn’t that what we all thought about the 2017 season after the debacle of 2016?
But this time it just feels different.
Sandy Alderson went out and got a quality manager that plays to his team’s strength – starting pitching. Mickey Callaway, who had never managed at any level, takes over for Collins. His area of expertise is pitching, a huge need for this organization. For the first time, the Mets have a skipper that not only was a pitcher, but understands the mechanics and the psyche of pitching. One of the biggest complaints every Mets fan had last year, outside of injuries, was how Collins and Warthen were mishandling the pitching staff.
While the bandwagon Mets fans were howling about the off-season activity of that other NY team in the Bronx (like Stanton was really going to come to the Mets), Alderson was slowly filling the numerous pot-holes that have been derailing the Mets wheel alignment for years.
With the uncertainly of the return of Conforto, he went out and signed back Jay Bruce, who he traded to Cleveland for relief pitcher Ryder Ryan in 2017. Now the Mets don’t have to rush Conforto back and Bruce should be able to provide 30+ homer runs for an offense that is going to once again rely on the home run.
Worried about Dominic Smith at 1B? So was Alderson, so he signed Adrian Gonzalez to hold down the fort and tutor Smith, who reported to training camp 30 pounds lighter and ready to learn.
Although it tugs at our heartstrings, it’s time to stop waiting for David Wright to make it back. Alderson plugged a huge hole by signing Todd Frazier, a professional third baseman. The man can play the position, be a veteran leader in the clubhouse and hit 25-30 home runs. What’s not to like?
Anthony Swarzak will plug the Addison Reed hole in the bullpen. Except he throws 95 mph and is coming off the best season of his career, averaging 10.6 strikeouts per 9 innings. He appeared in 70 games (77 innings) and struck out 91. That gives the Mets a solid late inning bullpen with Swarzak, Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia.
What about the starters? Although only deGrom escaped the DL in 2017, there was only one lefty starter on the roster – Steven Matz. Alderson bides his time and then goes out and signs a guy who won 18 games last year, Jason Vargas. The soft tossing lefty could fill the hole left by Colon as a consistent, veteran that takes the ball every five days and gives you six or seven quality innings.
And all it cost was money. Not that the Met’s had anything to trade, but some of the other free agents out there come at the price of a draft choice and cash from their International pool. When your farm system is ranked 28th in baseball, you can’t afford to give those things away. This allowed Alderson to build up the roster depth the Mets sorely lacked last year, while not mortgaging the team’s future. None of these free agent deals is over two years long.
Time to see how all these new pieces come together as the first full squad workout begins on Monday. It just can’t be as bad as last year, right?
Paul DiSclafani is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which has been recognized by Major League baseball as one of the top 100 blog sites.