This is the way too many Mets seasons end: Not with a postseason bang, but with the whimper of regular season failure.
The Mets’ 5-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday brought the curtain down on yet another disappointing campaign that saw them sink from a flawed first-place team in early July into a 77-85 also-ran in early October.
There was nothing to play for Sunday, and it showed; Noah Syndergaard got lit up for two home runs in the first inning, and Trevor Williams followed by coughing up three runs of his own. The Mets offense could muster only three hits.
For the 13th time since 2006, the final game of the season was reduced to a meaningless matchup — and Mets fans are beyond tired of playing meaningless baseball this time of year.
Now the Mets have reached the point when baseball, as the late A. Bartlett Giamatti described, “stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone.” And what an uncertain offseason the Amazin’s currently face.
Change lingers with the nip of autumn air over Flushing these days — and it starts in the front office.
Management, or the lack thereof, dogged the Mets from start to finish. They don’t have a general manager or a president of baseball operations.
Job one for Mets owner Steve Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson is to bring in a competent front office to not only figure out who will steer the Mets on the field in 2022, but also make some tough decisions about the roster itself. The situation demands one of the best minds in baseball: Theo Epstein or Billy Beane spring to mind.
Their manager, Luis Rojas, is on the hottest of seats, having made too many questionable decisions that cost the Mets games and earned the wrath of professional baseball’s most frustrated fanbase.
Have we seen the last of Michael Conforto, Marcus Stroman, Javier Baez and/or Noah Syndergaard in Mets uniforms? They’re all free agents now, and the Mets have to decide whether to negotiate new contracts, extend qualifying offers or let them walk.
Unlike past years, Mets fans don’t have to worry about an ownership operating on a shoestring budget. Cohen’s the richest owner in baseball, and it figures that if he can’t re-sign everyone, he’ll use his resources to help the incoming front office build a contender in 2022 via free agency and the trade market.
So many Mets underperformed in 2021: Conforto, Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith had the worst seasons of their careers. Will the new front office have faith that these three key players can turn it around, or is it time to look elsewhere?
Francisco Lindor struggled for the first half of his Mets career, but rebounded in a big way in the second half. A big 2022 looms for the all-star shortstop. And will his presence convince the Mets to give his friend Javier Baez a contract worthy of remaining in Queens?
The Mets front office must also extend the contracts of those Mets who succeeded in 2021. Giving Pete Alonso a big contract extension is a no-brainer; reworking Jacob deGrom’s contract as he approaches an opt-out clause after 2022 is also a must.
A team that was in first place for three months before falling apart is not in need of a complete overhaul. The Mets are getting closer, but they need a better supporting cast to evolve into a lasting contender.
Cohen’s first year as Mets owner was disappointing, but not a total failure. Now he has a chance to build on the good, cut out the bad, and turn the franchise’s fortunes around for the better — and the fans are eager to see him do it.