Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Circling the Drain

For the reasons that I mentioned in a personal note at the bottom of my last post, I haven't been able to post as regularly as I wish to. The New York Mets have decided to make things somewhat easier on me by continuing to play some awful baseball that isn't really worth writing about. They've been a somewhat frustrating team to watch, root for, and write about most of the season. That's only been more of the case as they can't even muster the fight to challenge for a division that seems likely to be won by a team with a win total in the mid-80s. Then again, last season's Mets didn't come very close to making expanded playoffs that included teams that barely finished over .500.

It's not that we're witnessing anything we haven't seen before — it's just a bit more disappointing that an owner who was willing to spend more money and a front office that worked to build some meaningful depth didn't change the equation in the first year of the post-Wilpon era. Instead, the season increasingly resembles familiar face plants from the past decade. After looking at least reasonably resilient for the first half of 2021, the Mets now look like a team that's ready to give up on the season any day now. With all due respect to Pete Alonso, a player I like very much, the Mets as a team don't give off a vibe of believing in their own chances.

Now, things can sometimes turn around quickly in baseball. All of us who were Mets fans in 1999 remember how that club stumbled at the end of September but managed to right the ship in time to win a Wild Card tie-breaker game against Cincinnati to squeak into the playoffs. But that club actually played good baseball before the late-season struggles.

You might also point to the 2015 Mets. Those Mets just couldn't escape the grip of mediocrity until July turned into August. But they had really dominant starting pitching that they could ride even before Yoenis Céspedes arrived with a red-hot bat to supercharger the offense.

Maybe I would feel a little more optimistic if Jacob deGrom was working his way back into the starting rotation. With the recent news that the Mets' ace will remain shut down for at least another two weeks, I find it quite difficult to make myself believe that I will see deGrom on a mound again before next spring. And really, even if the inflammation in his elbow really does go down, if the Mets continue to lose almost every game they play, why would the club risk deGrom pitching another inning this season?

Luis Rojas and his players are insistent that they're not quitting on the season. The lackluster brand of baseball they've been playing says otherwise. Seriously, whenever Pete Alonso or one of the other Mets try to reassure the fans, their words sound pretty hollow to my ears. They're 4-11 in August. Three of those wins came against the Nationals, who sold every player they possibly could by the deadline. So yeah, Pete, you got this.

I miss writing more regularly, but I'm not sure what I would say about the 2021 Mets that didn't just sound bitter and frustrated. (Kind of like the first few paragraphs of this post.) Unless the Mets really start to show some fight rather than just talking about it, I feel as if I'll soon be spending more and more of my energy looking to the future.

Although the hitting struggles have been a feature of the entire season, the Mets did show some real fight in the first half — particularly when many of the regulars were hurt, and unheralded "Bench Mob" guys were coming up with big hits to pull out wins. It wasn't always pretty, but there were enough inspiring moments to carry me through long stretches of early 70s style offense. Man, that seems like a long time ago.

It's still too early to give up hope for a turnaround. Over my decades of being a baseball fan, I've witnessed teams that looked more hopeless than this current Mets club find their way. But as things stand right now, this feels like the most disappointing Mets clubs that I can remember — not because they looked like they had a chance to be great, but rather they had the easiest Division in baseball in which to change the narrative about themselves and couldn't even muster a solid effort after the All-Star break.

If things continue the way they have been for the past few weeks, this will be the last time I spend precious writing time lamenting the 2021 Mets. I'd rather write about what I believe the Mets have to do going forward to turn the franchise around. I have a feeling there will be more than a few new faces next season if the bleeding doesn't stop. If I were Luis Rojas, I would be working on punching up my resume.

Please be well and take care.


 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

2 comments:

  1. Let me ask you a question. Had the Mets been playing see-saw baseball, win one then lose one, all season long. Would the emotions and disgust be has high as it is right now when they went from always winning to always losing? The end result is the same. The issue is clustering together hot and cold streaks. The timing of the cold streak makes it look as if they've fallen off a cliff but it's a .500 level of play no matter how you slice it. Is it good? Of course not. But phoning it in night after night just makes is seem far worse.

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  2. Not sure what you're asking. Context matters. That they are not competing at all since mid July is very much the point. Never thought they were a great team, but they're looking completely gutless now, and that makes me frustrated.

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