The Mets' penchant for shenanigans was supposed to be gone with new ownership. The past week shows its not fully behind them yet.
Yankees' bats facing bedeviling Rays challenge: Sherman
Albert Pujols’ sad Angels ending is latest mega-deal warning: Sherman
Yankees’ questionable rotation defying MLB injury trends: Sherman
Inside Mets' decision to fire Chili Davis and the origin of Donnie Stevenson: Sherman
Astros may have stolen this Yankees core's best chance at World Series: Sherman
Before exiting with concerns about his lower back Sunday, Jacob deGrom had expertly laid down a bunt single and had run the bases with textbook aptitude. His combination of a 0.68 ERA and .467 batting average befits a first-round high school talent playing amid future plumbers and accountants.
DeGrom is pulling it off in the majors.
He is the Mets’ best player — emphasis on “player.” Now, the Mets will be without him for at least a week and a half. The team reported an MRI showed no structural damage in their ace’s back. Nevertheless, deGrom had right-side tightness and was placed on the injured list.
There is no good time to lose your best player. But the Mets had three off-days in 11 days beginning Monday. Thus, if deGrom returns at the earliest date, May 21 in Miami, he would miss just one full rotation turn. There is also this: The Mets are just 3-3 when deGrom starts, continuing a trend of not maximizing victories when he pitches. But their 13-10 record when deGrom doesn’t start accentuates greater talent and depth to withstand his short absence — they were 8-4 when he started in 2020, 18-30 when he did not.
That talent/depth has not manifested yet on offense. The Mets have carried over 2020 runners in scoring position deficiencies while mixing in a surprising lack of power. Michael Conforto has broken from an early-season funk, and Francisco Lindor and Dom Smith are probably too talented not to do the same.
For now, though, the Mets are leaning on splendid run prevention. Lindor and James McCann have helped a defensive upgrade, but so have Conforto, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil by outperforming their fielding reputations.
Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker have been worthy co-stars to deGrom. Pretty much every reliever from closer Edwin Diaz to journeyman Tommy Hunter has performed well. The main setup quartet of Miguel Castro, Jeurys Familia, Aaron Loup and Trevor May has a 1.65 ERA and one homer allowed in 43 ²/₃ innings. And Seth Lugo, Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard are on the radar.
As long as the deGrom injury is just a start or two, the Mets stand with the Braves for the most talent and depth in the NL East; perhaps even more. They lead the tightly packed division, and could and probably should win it.
Yet, these are the Mets, which serves as shorthand to explain dysfunction amid just one division title and two playoff appearances since 2006. It is what holds back a firm embrace of these Mets as the NL East team to beat. Steve Cohen has badly wanted to distance that past, pumping millions into personnel and systems to try to play catch up. But are Cohen and his lieutenants getting a honeymoon they have yet to earn? After all, how would the past few months have been received and covered if the Wilpons still ran the team?
Winning is always the great deodorant. And the Mets have won five straight in the aftermath of firing hitting coaches. Yet, that decision was unpopular with the players, in part, because of the Wilpon-evoking amateur hour of the clubhouse finding out on social media before hearing it from their bosses.
Alonso took on the role of fictitious hitting coach Donnie Stevenson to lessen the stress around a non-hitting team and Lindor decided to concoct a rodent tale to divert attention from just how bad the altercation between him and McNeil got. Luis Rojas tried to defuse by mentioning multiple times that the Mets are “family,” but, of course, so were the Gambinos.
None of this is unique. There are a lot of boys will be boys and heighten tensions around every team; plus attempts by leadership to downplay the worst (though Rojas and acting general manager Zack Scott made clear they thought Lindor handled the rat/raccoon issue incorrectly). But the Mets were reacting (overreacting?) before Memorial Day. With 20 percent capacity crowds at home. Without having to answer a reporter’s questions face to face in 14 months and counting. What will this look like in July? August? …
And does the Mets’ front office have the personnel and tact to help navigate roiling issues?
Cohen and Sandy Alderson believed the best and the brightest would flock to work for them. But the best candidates shunned the chance to be president of baseball operations, partially concerned about Cohen’s reputation as a boss at his hedge fund. So the Mets just hired a GM, Jared Porter, who was fired a month later when it was revealed he had sent scores of inappropriate texts to a female reporter. Thus, they are operating with Alderson wearing many hats, no president of baseball operations and just an acting GM.
Now this group helped secure the pitching depth that makes the loss of the Mets’ best player more palatable. The players have gone 13-10 when deGrom doesn’t start. Both are encouraging.
But it is a long season and these Mets have a lot of work to prove they are not those Mets.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Joel Sherman