A little revisionist history for New York Mets fans to ponder for the sliding team from Queens.
For Sandy Alderson’s New York Mets, the building of a roster was calculated, timed, and patiently groomed from the beginning. There was intent and direction – a grand plan featuring a lethal pitching staff with just enough offense to back it.
Those finely-laid plans came close to their payoff, a World Championship, when the Mets won the pennant in 2015. But short of that storybook run, team play has been riddled by injury and inconsistency.
And until the Mets can strike gold on the hopes of topping the sport, the jury is out on Alderson’s architecture. That is, the building of a team that seemed to be a force in the National League but now looks like a fleeting attempt at breaking the franchise woes which preceded the veteran general manager.
So, back to square one – at least hypothetically. Was the direction completely ill-advised, even if at one point it seemed to be the brilliant mastermind of a perennial contender?
Shaping the molds of the New York Mets with arms, the infant strategy of Alderson’s front office, now hovers in a state of uncertainty. The factor which suspends the Mets’ strategic build-up: that of a familiar foe, the Chicago Cubs, who chose to weaponized their destitute franchise with bats.
In a sports-entertainment business largely owned by the wisdom of “what have you done for me lately?” the Mets’ losing ways are fittingly punctuated by the Cubs’ soaring success – a World Series under their belt and promise shown in 2017.
With the Mets on pace to win 70 games – it’s just a pace, but nonetheless, one worth noting – it’s hardly a challenge to find fault in the roster’s construction.
Neither is it difficult to see what went wrong with the foundation of pitching: Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are currently on the disabled list, and the injury history beyond that pair is even uglier. Each pitcher among the team’s assembly of promising arms (including Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Zack Wheeler, too) has had an extended trip on the DL, some of which ran concurrently with another pitcher of ace stature or potential, in the last season and a half.
The injury build up has had its resultant on-field downfalls, as the Mets’ Band-Aid staff has pitched to the highest earned run average in Major League Baseball. (In 43 games played, the pitching staff owns a 5.09 ERA.)
Ultimately, what has befallen the Mets to a 19-25 record, sitting 8.5 games behind the first place Washington Nationals, has been the futility of the team’s pitching, a reversal from the anticipated picture. The ironic stain on these first two months is no better implicated than the relative productivity of the offense: 11th-highest scoring in the league.
Which again begs the question, was the direction of building with arms, instead of bats, a smart one?
It’s early to say. Evidently, though, the Mets’ pitching has been counterproductive in 2017. And if the narrative continues, the answer will be easy – that an accumulation injury-prone, hard-throwing pitchers was a false start.
This retrospective thinking is dangerously uncomfortable. It conjures alternative pasts in which the Mets could have managed to acquire a blue-chip hitting prospect like Brandon Belt instead of Zack Wheeler back in 2012 when the Mets traded Carlos Beltran for the phenom righty. Or, even Brandon Crawford, a lesser-known prospect, would have become a steal of a deal for New York.
At this point, there’s no action to be taken. Past moves made by Alderson are history, impossible to dislodge.
And while his record is mostly positive, a judgment of the franchise plan is now under a lens of intense microscopy, pitting the highs of contending teams powered by offensive juggernauts against the lows of a sinking ship in Queens. Anchored by the Mets’ well-advertised but poorly-performing stable of talented arms, the ship sails totally tethered to its rotation’s capable power to produce, or its persisting nature of weakness.