Friday, June 17, 2022

Winning Choices

The 2022 Mets make far fewer mistakes than previous Mets clubs, and it's adding up to many more wins.

As I watch the 2022 edition of the New York Mets, I am constantly reminded of how different this team is from the teams that preceded them. It started with owner Steve Cohen endowing new Mets GM Billy Eppler with an amount of cash that earlier Mets GMs could only dream about. But the direction Eppler chose to take while spending Cohen's money was interesting. I'm not sure that any of the three players that Eppler signed to open the Mets' spending — Starling Marte, Mark Canha, or Eduardo Escobar — were the types of players the Mets would have pursued previously.

Mark Canha, in particular, seemed like quite the un-Metsian target. A 33-year-old OF and 1B, Canha had been a part-time player for all but his last season with the Oakland A's. Mark didn't possess much power, with a lifetime slugging percentage of .431. He amassed only 30 stolen bases over his 7 seasons in the majors.

But what Mark Canha did do, especially in his last 3 seasons with Oakland, was get on base. Watching him perform every day, we've also learned that Mark is a very smart ballplayer who consistently has quality at-bats, runs the bases well despite lacking blazing speed, and fields his position very satisfactorily. And he doesn't make many mistakes, which certainly differentiates Mark from many players who wore the Mets uniform over the last decade or so. In that way, Mark Canha symbolizes the 2022 New York Mets.

Mark Canha has made himself a very valuable Met in the early going. In a year where Rob Manfred's endless tinkering with the baseball has led to a power outage across the sport, the style of baseball the 2022 Mets are playing seems to be the correct choice. Moreover, the Mets seemed to be ahead of most of MLB in constructing their team in this manner. How often were we able to say that about the team when it was under its previous ownership?

I have to admit that I wasn't super-excited when the Mets signed Billy Eppler as their new General Manager. I was relieved that they seemed to have a competent person in charge of their baseball operations. Still, Eppler's tenure with the California Angels didn't inspire tremendous confidence in his ability. What gave me hope that Eppler would be a good choice was reading favorable opinions about him from baseball people and understanding the challenges of dealing with Angels owner Arte Moreno.

Billy Eppler would undoubtedly be familiar with what Mark Canha brings to the game. Eppler's tenure in Anaheim from 2016 - 2020 overlapped with Canha's time in Oakland. Recognizing that Mark Canha was precisely the sort of player that the Mets needed is something for which Eppler should get credit. Same with Marte and Escobar. The Mets roster is much, much better than it's been in a long time. Max Scherzer was a huge signing. The trade to acquire Chris Bassitt was an excellent move, despite his recent rough stretch. (Bassitt was another A's player that Eppler watched a lot when he was with the Angels.)

In fairness, Eppler deserves some criticism for not paying a little more attention to the bullpen while constructing this roster. It remains to be seen how the Mets GM will address that deficiency. Still, Billy Eppler's inaugural offseason with the Mets has proven to be a success. Not just in making the roster better but ensuring that the Mets' level of overall play would be much better. Buck Showalter has had a lot to do with that, of course, but the players Buck was given to make this happen made his job much easier.

Of course, Billy Eppler isn't a one-man show running this team. That's not even possible these days, as the task of running an MLB front office has become exponentially more complex. But, by all accounts, Eppler had done a great job creating a collaborative workplace where front office personnel feels valued, and their input is encouraged.

The Mets have lost many games over the years that teetered on the brink between victory and defeat, only to fall in the latter direction due to the Mets' tendency to make more mistakes than their opponents. This was especially evident when the Mets competed against some of the league's better teams. That's no longer the case.

Sure, the Mets endure some stinkers like their loss on Wednesday night, but it's been much more common for them to make fewer mistakes than their opponents. And, as much as having better players in general and a more competent manager, the better brand of baseball the Mets are playing is the reason they're winning more than their share of those games that wobble between victory and defeat.

Please be well and take care. Let's go Mets!

Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

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