The New York Mets have given their fans plenty of reason to panic. Before you smash the eject button, let’s remember a few things about this team.
Despite the New York Mets sub .500 record so far this season, it is still way too soon for fans to hit the panic button on this team.
Sure, it’s been a bleak week for the Mets (a whole month actually), highlighted by: the Robinson Cano–Michael Conforto on-field collision in D.C. that sent Conforto to the IL with a concussion; Cano’s position at the center of a media firestorm for not running out two ground balls in Miami; Mickey Callaway’s tenuous hold on the managerial job after being swept by the last-place Miami Marlins; and the gut-punching news of Yoenis Céspedes’ ankle fracture, ending any hopes of a return to the Mets lineup later this season.
In the midst of this turmoil, the team’s stagnant third-place standing in the NL East only exacerbates the situation. I’m always surprised, and frankly a little repulsed, by how quick Mets fans are to hit the panic button and turn to outrage. With a 22-25 win/loss record in late May, this season is not over yet! There is hope! There is a lot more baseball left to play. (115 games left to be exact).
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Going forward, the key to turning their otherwise mediocre season around rests entirely on the utilization of veteran leadership and the re-application of Terry Collins’ old managerial philosophy of “those who hit, play!” These two areas need to improve before the season spirals out of control.
Think about it. When young players like Brandon Nimmo (who hustles to first base any time he walks) and Pete Alonso (who exudes excitement and shamelessly displays his passion to win) are the ones acting like seasoned pros over the Mets actual veterans, we can see why the team is under-achieving and not performing at the level Van Wagenen intended when he constructed the team. It is precisely because of Nimmo and Alonso’s example that Cano’s lack of hustle is so egregious.
Putting his past PED suspension aside, Cano’s career numbers warrant a Hall of Fame induction, and yet his lack of veteran leadership on the field is hurting this team. Both Cano and, for that matter, Wilson Ramos are failing to set an example for their younger teammates. The fact that Alonso is acting more like a leader than these guys is simply unacceptable.
For example, the 2015 Mets had veteran leadership all over the roster during their late-season playoff run. Trade Deadline acquisitions like Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, in addition to players like Bartolo Colon and David Wright, brought character to the team; and under Collins’ leadership, they all contributed and built upon each other’s success.
Moreover, Collins’ mantra of “those who hit, play” needs to be something Callaway adopts going forward. My advice to him would be, “Don’t be afraid to bench veterans, as a wake-up call, and start guys like Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis, and others more regularly. I think this would send a message to the players and help spark their lineup.
Although the Mets rank statistically near the bottom of the league in on-field production, the key to turning their season around is dependent on the efficiency of their veteran leadership going forward. Hopefully, the front office will make some additions come June (like signing Craig Kimbrel to bolster their pen) and make a playoff bid.
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And then we’ll see what happens. As I said, there’s a lot of baseball left to be played – and a lot of untapped potential left for this team to fulfill.