The Mets started the season 7-4. Since then, they’ve gone 7-16. After today’s loss to Pittsburgh dropped their record to 14-20, they found themselves a season low six games under .500. As Terry Collins pointed out in his postgame press conference, the Mets’ starting pitching and offense has been woeful lately. When you combine those two factors, it becomes almost impossible to win. So, now what?
There are fans who are responding in a ho-hum way, bothered by the losing and the on field performance, but focused on the bigger picture of 2014 and beyond. There are those who are screaming bloody murder about the shortcomings of every executive, coach, and player, and there are many who fall somewhere in-between. There’s no excuse to be made for the way the Mets are currently playing. Their offense has been anemic and the starting pitchers (aside from Matt Harvey) are in the midst of a brutal stretch. The failure of four of the five starting pitchers is leading to more stress on a bullpen that isn’t equipped to handle it. The result hasn’t been pretty. There are two things that need to be pointed out. The first is the following:
I know there are fans out there who don’t want to hear this, fans who refuse to give the Wilpon’s or Sandy Alderson a free pass for failing to field a team worthy of our money, but I’m going to say it: 2013 is a transition year. It always has been. The Mets have been shedding payroll the last few years while building up their minor league system. It’s expected that 2014 will be the first year the team is truly competitive. Now, does that mean the fans who are angry with the on field product don’t have a right to be? Of course not. It’s reasonable to expect a great product, especially in New York. However, the above statement regarding this year being one of transition isn’t my opinion – it’s a fact. The sooner fans come to grips with that, the better.
The second thing that needs to be pointed out is that although it may not seem like it, it’s highly unlikely that the Mets will be this tough to watch and this terrible for the majority of the year. Yes, the outfield is a mess and the bullpen is in flux (though not nearly as bad as it’s been made out to be). When you look at just how bad the Mets have been recently, though, it’s almost impossible to believe – and that means it’s unlikely to continue for the duration.
The rotation will not be this ridiculously bad for much longer. Jonathon Niese had a 3.31 ERA before his last two starts (one that he pitched through while in pain, another that he pitched through with a mechanical flaw) before seeing it balloon to close to 6.00. Once Niese is right, the results should be fine. Dillon Gee has been better of late. One of the under-performers, I’d guess Shaun Marcum, will be replaced by Zack Wheeler within the month. That will leave the Mets with a top three of Harvey, Niese, and Wheeler. Not so bad.
The offense, while nothing to write home about, was expected to be middle of the road. While Ike Davis has floundered early this season just like he did in 2012, he’s been joined by fellow slump addled players Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada. Murphy is 2 for his last 27 and has seen his OBP slip to .298. Tejada is hitting .236. The Mets have become allergic to multiple hit innings, seemingly incapable of mustering more than three runs per game. That will improve.
With that said, it’s highly unlikely the team will reach a point this season where they’re considered anything more than mediocre or average. That’s incredibly hard for fans to take. And it’s understandable that a fan base as passionate as the Mets’ is screaming for action. Well, what kind of action is merited? If the team stops playing hard or his poor moves dictate it, Terry Collins should be fired. Any player whose play suggests he doesn’t deserve a spot on the roster should be replaced with someone from the minors who can be evaluated. Aside from that, there’s not much the Mets can or should really do at this point.
Currently, the Mets have a manager who may or may not be back after the season (along with his coaching staff). They have a rotation that will likely soon include Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese, and Zack Wheeler. Barring something strange happening, those three will be in the rotation in 2014 and beyond. On the offensive side of things, there’s one player who’s the centerpiece (David Wright), one who will likely be here in 2014 (Daniel Murphy), and one in the minors who big things are expected from (Travis d’Arnaud). In the pen, Bobby Parnell has emerged as a reliable closer and Scott Rice has become a reliable lefty specialist. Before his injury, Jeurys Familia was showing flashes of putting it together. The team will have money to spend after the season to fill needs, and indications are that they will.
When you read the above paragraph with the understanding that 2013 is a transition year, thinking about the team’s recent struggles ,14-20 record, and inaction, is easier to handle. However, when you spend each day invested in the team for hours at a time, it’s easy to get lost in how bad they’ve performed and to demand both accountability and action.
Fans have a right to be disgusted with the current play of the team. It’s OK for them to be upset that there are placeholders in the outfield and minor league quality starting pitchers in the rotation who are masquerading as major league starting pitchers. What shouldn’t be lost, though, is the big picture.
2013 is a transition year. Transitions rarely happen without bumps along the way, and the Mets are going to hit a bunch of them. Fans just have to hope that the process the team has gone through over the last few years will bear fruit sooner rather than later. It’s an annoying waiting game and it often sucks. But it’s the situation the Mets are currently in.
Commentary from Rich Sparago:
I agree that 2013 was to be a transition year, and we were wise to have modest expectations. But the quality of this ballclub, meaning both personnel and play on the field, is not acceptable, even in a transition year.
Unlike 2009, when the team was decimated by injuries (Reyes, Delgado, Beltran), the Mets chose to put this team on the field. The GM was quite up front in his commentary about the outfield, yet did nothing to address the situation. There were options available (such as Michael Bourn), and these options were declined. Yes, it may have cost money, draft picks, or players to improve, but even a modest improvement was necessary.
We can weather this storm. We weathered the late 70s, early 80s, early 90s, and mid 2000s. But my concern is the increasingly apathetic fan base. Citi Field is becoming a ghost town, and it shouldn’t be that way. Fans respond to messages that the team is accountable for its product. The organization needs to be aware of that when making its decisions.