Monday, September 6, 2021

Catching up on the Mets, Part 2

Since I wrote Part 1 of this post, the Mets winning streak came to an anticlimactic end in game 2 against the Nationals on Saturday night. The New York Mets lost that game the same way they have lost many games in this 2021 baseball season: fielding a less-than-optimal starting lineup thanks to a depleted roster and mustering little offense in an eminently winnable game. Then in today's series finale, they failed to convert runs to build a comfortable lead, leading to a heartbreaking (and backbreaking) loss. Raise your hands if you were shocked by either of these outcomes. Anyone? Yeah, me neither.

Of more consequence than a single loss in the game was the likely loss of Brandon Nimmo for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. While not quite as big of a blow as the series of injuries to Jacob deGrom, Nimmo has been the second most valuable bat in the Mets' lineup this season, just behind Pete Alonso. And, at least through yesterday's games, Nimmo's OPS+ (134) was actually a tics higher than Alonso's (133). Anyway, with only 4 weeks left in the regular season, it would be rather miraculous if Nimmo returned in 2021.

With Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora likely to get most of the time in CF the rest of the way, the already impotent offense will be taking a huge hit. Pillar's OPS+ on the season is well below average at 82. As bad as that is, Almora is actually running a negative OPS+ on the year (-7). Yeah, the offense will be taking a big hit, and the Mets' tough path to the playoffs just got more challenging. And so it goes.

If the Mets drop out of the pennant race before the end of the season, it wouldn't be surprising if OF prospect Khalil Lee got another look. Lee may not be a can't-miss prospect, but Almora has shown no reason to hang onto him beyond this season. Pillar has had some good moments, but this year's offensive output doesn't argue for bringing him back next season, either. CF will be another item on the shopping list for whoever runs the Mets baseball ops this coming offseason. Pillar might put himself back in the running to be a bench bat if he continues to hit in September, but I don't think the Mets want to see him get as many plate appearances as this season.

Anyway, at the end of Part 1, I mentioned Zack Scott's DUI arrest, which would seem to make Scott's future with the Mets rather tentative. It would seem to be incredibly doubtful that Scott would get the permanent GM gig. If Scott returns to work for the New York Mets, it will likely not be the person running the show. He couldn't afford a display of such poor judgment. He will pay the price for it.

One recent piece that I can't agree with is this one from last week by Mike Vacarro in the New York Post. I like Vacarro, but I thought his point on the trade deadline was way off:

But let's be perfectly clear about something: Zack Scott was already on paper-thin ground as acting GM of the Mets. His job performance alone has been, in a word, unacceptable. The Mets are two games under .500, and while that is the product of some team-wide underperformance, make no mistake: when Scott could have made an impact, at the trade deadline, with the Mets still in command of the NL East, he made one trade. Now, that trade has been filled with all kinds of entertainment value, with Javier Baez displaying his full range of engaging and enraging traits in full all month.

But the Braves quietly got much better at the deadline. The Phillies upgraded. So, of course, did the Giants and Dodgers and, let us not forget, the Yankees. Maybe Sandy Alderson can shoulder some of the blame; Alderson, an old target of Met-fan angst, probably deserves as much.

Later in the piece, Vacarro points to some things I do agree with. I thought Scott made a mistake by calling some players out in the press on the injuries and underperformance. Scott wasn't wrong, but that stuff needs to stay within the organization. It made Scott look like he was in over his head as even an acting GM in the chaotic New York market.

But looking at the Mets at the trade deadline, you just have to consider how few prospects the Mets have that other teams want for any valuable trade chip — particularly in this year's superheated market. The Mets had to trade Pete Crow-Armstrong — yet another first-round pick traded in the past few seasons — to obtain Javier Báez. They really couldn't afford to move another of their tiny number of really good prospects.

It's all well and good to hope for the Mets to do much more in the international market and eventually have a deep farm system that will allow them to make deals and have some home-grown talent for their own roster. But international signings are all teenagers years away from the possibility of a Major League career. The top levels of the Mets system are really thin in talent right now, and only holding onto some prospects will allow the Mets to possess some Major League-ready talent.

If they keep trading away kids, the Mets could find themselves in a position where they will need to strongly consider a tear-down in a couple of years. Mets fans could be looking at 2 or 3 90-loss seasons at a minimum. It won't be popular for the Mets to maintain discipline during the next couple of years while attempting to build a productive system, but I do honestly believe that it's important. I don't fault Scott for trades not made.

In all honesty,  I can't accurately assess Scott's abilities. Without a true inside knowledge of the Mets front office, it's impossible to know which decisions were Scott's alone, and which were Sandy Alderson's in part or in total. I assume that Alderson is delegating whatever he feels comfortable with and maintaining veto powers on the biggest decisions. Whatever Scott's ultimate fate, I do think that it would be best for the team if Sandy Alderson wasn't the de-facto boss of baseball ops next year. And if Scott stays, he doesn't seem suited to be a frontman with the press, which would preclude him from being a GM even under a President of Baseball Operations.

Losing 2 very winnable games to the Nationals this holiday weekend has dealt a serious blow to the Mets' chances of making a real playoff run this month, but it sure seems to be a microcosm of the whole season. The 2021 Mets are excellent at teasing but seemingly incapable of closing the job. 

I try to keep in mind that this season wasn't supposed to be the be-all and end-all of the Steve Cohen era, but only just the beginning of it all. Cohen's not infallible, and he's not always great at public relations, but he's a smart guy. I think he must realize that he needs to get someone younger than Alderson and better-suited for the job than Zack Scott. Realistically, that search should begin the second the season is over. And, since Theo Epstein isn't working for a team right now, I hope the Mets are already talking to him.

I'm not a believer in change just for the sake of change. In recent years, the Mets have actually been good in scouting and development — if they could just hold onto some good prospects. I would think that figuring out what's working and enhancing those areas is just as important as figuring out what's not working and making some big changes. I'd like to see someone with some real creativity and vision making those decisions.

I don't think that the Mets are hopelessly dysfunctional, as some in the press are portraying them. But I think that a change in leadership is warranted and virtually inevitable. I think there's more work to be done, but positive change has already been made. Having the right leadership will be crucial to ensuring that the club continues to go in the right direction.

Recent happenings in my life have helped me to keep everything happening with the Mets in perspective. I'm still waiting to confirm with my specialist, but I have apparently suffered a huge setback in my rehab from back and neck surgery. While I was digesting that disappointment, Lisa had to be transported to the hospital and spend several days dealing with some ongoing issues.

Lisa's hospitalization seemed to be resolving into a successful outcome, but then she was diagnosed with COVID. This infection apparently happened in the emergency room of the hospital, as she tested negative going in. I was exposed, also, as I was visiting her right up to the positive test. I am negative so far, but now Lisa is home, and we are working hard to avoid a COVID infection transmitting back and forth between the two of us.

My appointment with the back specialist is scheduled for next week. As long as I continue to test negative, I presume that it will go forward. I'd like to know if I am heading for yet another surgery. I'm worried they might postpone my appointment even if I continue to test negative, and I'll be left hanging even longer. But that's out of my control.

Still, Lisa and I are both vaccinated. She received aggressive treatment in the hospital to keep her from suffering severe symptoms from her infection, even though her immune system has some issues thanks to a drug she has to take. She keeps getting better, and I just hope to personally dodge the COVID bullet.

Life throws a lot of crap at you. The 2021 Mets have been a season-long disappointment to those of us who root for them. It helps to remember that there is always a way forward if you keep your head up. For those of you reading these words, I hope that your personal difficulties are manageable and under control.

For the Mets, this organization isn't inevitably going to suffer from dysfunction just because the last few years haven't been great, and the first year of Steve Cohen's regime hasn't been without bumps. But we need Steve Cohen to aggressively pursue the right leadership for the Mets. I really believe that he will. Whatever you think of how he operates his business, Cohen didn't reach such a high level of success by sitting back and hoping things would get better on their own.

I hope to have a bit more time to write here more often going forward than I've had recently, but I will at least continue to find the time to share some thoughts on the present and future direction of the Mets. I sincerely thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read my thoughts. Please be well and take care. Let's go Mets!

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

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