The thing about being Steve Cohen, and being the New York Mets, is that it has to work. Otherwise, it’s less likely that other owners are going to feel the need to compete with him. The MLB expanded playoffs kills a lot of that urge anyway, but if the Mets are running away with the NL East year after year and piling up 100 wins, eventually someone has to try and bridge the gap.
17-18 ain’t it.
The Queens 9 just lost a series to the Rockies. After losing one to the Tigers. After losing one to the Braves. After losing one to the Nationals. But hey, they split the series with the Giants before that. It’s not been a great stretch, and it’s left them already trailing Atlanta by seven games, which sounds like a pretty big gap already to a team like Atlanta that is solid everywhere you look.
Steve Cohen’s money doesn’t fix everything
The thing about Cohen’s money is that it doesn’t make players bionic. And the Mets are paying for their injuries, first and foremost. Throw in a suspension for Max Scherzer, and the Mets are scraping the bottom of the rotation barrel where you find things you’d normally want to disinfect. David Petersen flashed some stuff, but he also flashed a lot of scoreboards and fireworks with the amount of homers he was giving up. Jose Butto was effective but limited, and they’re both back in Syracuse (poor guys). And the Mets are going to be reeling from their long term absentees, Carlos Carrasco and Jose Quintana. Which leaves the rotation behind Scherzer and Justin Verlander to Kodai Senga, Tylor Megill and his misspelled first name (but his daddy still got drunk and left him the will), and Joey Lucchesi. All of them have struggled or are outrunning their metrics. Senga and Megill (he went to Tangie Town) have had all the control of a toddler on pop rocks.
That doesn’t mean the problems haven’t extended to the offense. There’s a great top half here, but you can see where the offense Carlos Correa could have provided is sorely missed. Starling Marte is sneaking Buck Showalter something, because he still has a grip on the second spot in the lineup and yet is clinically dead (68 wRC+). Mark Canha didn’t have that much power to lose, but he has, while also suffering from some fiendish BABIP treachery (.247 BABIP). Eduardo Escobar was so bad that they had to send out the Baty-signal, and he hasn’t disappointed so far. Francisco Alvarez is up and behind the plate, but he’s striking out too much and not showing his on-base skill that he had in the minors. That should correct in time, but time isn’t something you get with the Mets. All that’s left a lot of water-carrying for McNeil, Nimmo, Alonso, and Lindor.
The pen has actually held together pretty well in the absence of Edwin Diaz. It hasn’t been great, (17th in pen ERA), and you can definitely see where they’d benefit from slotting David Robertson and Adam Ottavino down an inning. Drew Smith has popped by leaning on his fastball more, striking out a third of the hitters he’s faced. It’s a thin pen, but it isn’t a disaster.
How do the Mets turn it around?
The path to salvation is pretty clear. It’s Brett Baty continuing to hit and Alvarez at least finding the ability to walk again. Then the Mets have seven hitters instead of five. They still might have to solve their corner outfield issues by the trade deadline, as Canha and Marte are in the baseball wasteland of their mid-30s. Their struggles may be straight up decline rather than struggles.
What might keep Seinfeld up at night is that Scherzer hasn’t been good and has lost a tick off his fastball. His slider has lost some depth as well, and he’s using it less, and one wonders what Scherzer looks like when he has to be uber careful about what he’s using on his hands for the next little while. If Scherzer isn’t Scherzer, suddenly the structure looks way more rickety. The Mets are going to hope to stay afloat until Carrasco and Quintana return down the road, though Carrasco himself might just be cooked (he’s 36). Whatever problems are in the pen can always be fixed via trade.
For as much buzz as the Mets created in the winter, once the Correa signing fell through they were basically relegated to running last year’s team back, with Quintana, Senga, and Verlander replacing departed starters, and the lineup basically counting on Baty and Alvarez becoming plus-major leaguers. But McNeil and Nimmo are in their 30s too, are the Mets going to get more from them than they already have? The Mets are spreading the money around but an awful lot of their fate hinges on two kids they’re paying nothing yet.
The Mets are more likely to go up than remain flat-lined as they are now, and there’s probably a white-hot month somewhere in the summer. There’d better be, otherwise there will be a lot of grinning owners outside of New York.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate to find out how he got Darryl Strawberry to flip him off when he was just seven years old.