‘Tis the season of the pointing finger — a tradition that is as ingrained in New York’s baseball culture as the mad dash to the attic for Halloween decorations upon the autumnal equinox, which just so happens to be this Tuesday.
After the death blow that was the previous week of Mets baseball — they went 1-5 against the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies after being just three games out of the final NL Wild Card spot — the takes and columns will be flying toward you at lightning speed about how horrendous of a 2021 season this was for a team that had high hopes. They’re already starting — specifically with some of the larger papers in this city setting their scopes on first-year owner Steve Cohen. Well, that’s been all year.
I could be wrong, but I don’t remember nearly as many columns about the ineptitude of the Wilpon family over the past 20 years. But I digress.
It’s more than understandable as to why there is so much frustration surrounding this Mets team right now. They were supposed to win over 90 games this year and make a legitimate push for an NL East title. Those hopes significantly grew after the first few months of the campaign when it became clear that the rest of the division would be battling mediocrity throughout the summer.
But the Mets stooped to the level of their rivals; so the finger can’t be pointed at a singular entity when failures resonated so widely across the organization.
The list of Mets that met or exceeded expectations was a short one this season: Pete Alonso, Marcus Stroman, Brandon Nimmo, Jacob deGrom — before the second half of his season was robbed due to injury — Aaron Loup, and one could even say, Jonathan Villar and Kevin Pillar. Not to mention Javier Baez, who has provided a spark upon his acquisition at the trade deadline that went unanswered down the stretch.
The Mets have one of the worst offenses in baseball (27th in MLB) that simply failed to adapt amid struggles, prompting a change at hitting coach early in the season. A majority of the roster that underperformed and underwhelmed was exacerbated by questionable decision-making from manager Luis Rojas.
At times, there was too much stress put solely on the numbers or analytics. Other times there was an astounding lack of awareness in the dugout, as seen in some of the pitching decisions Rojas made over the last two weeks.
Problems off the field proceeded to add more to the illusion of dysfunctionality from the outside, which could not have helped the on-field product.
Just months after being hired as general manager, Jared Porter was fired for sending inappropriate and lewd text messages to a female reporter. Further distractions arose when it was revealed that former manager Mickey Callaway did the same thing while he was managing the team.
Acting GM Zack Scott was arrested for a DWI and has not been with the team since the beginning of the month; all but sealing his fate from returning to the Mets’ front office. There was also the botched drafting of highly-touted Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker, thumbs facing downward, and a whole lot of booing.
Quite a lot going on under the microscope that is playing baseball in New York City.
I don’t have enough fingers to point at just one issue — nor would I feel inclined to because I would make a fool of myself facing a 97-mph cutter or trying to snare a line drive to right that left the bat at 107.8 mph.
Simply put, chalk Year 1 of the Steve Cohen experience as a loss. There’s no other way to describe it. But there will be more after this as a devoted owner — regardless of social media presence — tries to build a contender, which makes this winter all the more vital for a team entering the 2022 season on the 36th year of its World Series drought.
Both Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson — who is expected to return next year — will be orchestrating a multitude of changes. Not only will the search for a president of baseball operations and a general manager start back up, but a managerial search could also be in the cards. Decisions will also have to be made on the futures of Stroman, Baez, Loup, Michael Conforto, and Noah Syndergaard, just to name a few. Don’t forget the looming $20 million of Robinson Cano’s contract that comes back on the books after he returns from his season-long PED suspension.
Get ready for another busy winter, because that’s all it looks like there is to look forward to with 12 games to go.