As most Mets fans understand by now, it will take a miracle for the 2018 team to capture the NL East. But if all the stars align and their starting pitching comes alive as a unit, the Mets can make some noise in the Division. Here’s a look at what the competition has been up to.
Although skewed by their 2015 pennant-winning season, the New York Mets have performed surprisingly well against their division rivals from 2015-2017, a three-year test span.
The Mets head-to-head records put together by Baseball Reference show winning records against the Braves (32-25), Marlins (30-27), and the Phillies (38-19). Their nemesis has been the Nationals, who seem to have the Mets in their back pocket (24-33).
In 2018, with the exception of the up-and-coming Phillies, nothing is likely to change for the Mets within the Division regarding the trending records they’ve compiled over the last three seasons. We’ll take a short trip around the Division to see why that is likely to be true.
For the Mets and all teams in the National League East, everything begins and ends with the Washington Nationals, who remain the perennial favorite to capture first-place again. But as with prior seasons, that’s as far as they’ll go.
There’s something “off” about the Nationals. Winning teams who become dominating teams in the major leagues have one thing in common the Nationals seem to lack. They play as a team. The live and breath as a team. They are a team. No one has been able to put their finger on it, but there is no other reason to explain why a team led by Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer (pictured above), Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Zimmerman has been unable to get beyond the first round of the playoffs.
Other than declining the contract of Adam Lind and showing their manager, Dusty Baker, the door, the Nationals have been eerily quiet during this offseason. That could be because the team knows the road to another division title is paved with gold, so why bother to rock the boat. Time will tell if that gamble pays off. But one thing is sure. This is the last ride for this team as it’s currently constructed.
Prediction: The Nationals will continue to be the dominant team in their meetings. Both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom will get “up” for their starts against the Nationals, but it won’t be enough as the Mets will continue to struggle overall to a 7-12 finish against the Nats.
Next up are the Philadelphia Phillies, who showed where they were heading when they signed 1B Carlos Santana (right) to a contract worth $60 million through 2020. According to MLB.com, The length of the contract gives them flexibility for the future, mainly because he is without a no-trade clause or buyout on a $17.5 million club option for ’21.
The deal for Santana is a prerequisite to show Bryce Harper they are a team in it to win it. And according to Jim Callis, also of MLB.com, the Phillies now have one of the five best farm systems in the major leagues.
All of which points to the fact they are not likely to remain as a pushover for the Mets, beginning as soon as this season. The Phillies also added Tommy Hunter to a rotation led by 24-year-old Aaron Nola.
With money to spend, the team is on the rise, and if they can add Harper next offseason, a decided shift in power within the division will have occurred.
Prediction: The days of the Mets dominance over the Phillies are over, and it’s likely the Mets will see their rival jump over them in the standings. In head to head competition, the Mets appear to be doomed to no better than a 9-10 record, and that’s if the Phillies remain quiet on deals and signings til next year. Otherwise, it could get drastically worse for the Mets.
Thought to be one of the teams on the move, the Atlanta Braves now appear to be looking more at 2019 instead of this season. With the exception of moving Matt Kemp back to the Dodgers, importing Scott Kazmir, Adrian Gonzalez (who they promptly released), and Brandon McCarthy, the deal has the look of a team just trying to make it through the 2018 season.
The Braves organization made a bold move when they transplanted the team away from the roar of Interstate 85 traffic to the suburbs in Cobb County, where a brand new ballpark was built for them. A new ballpark, new team. Or, that’s the plan at least.
The organization was shaken to its roots, though, when a high ranking member in their front office was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, manipulating the international player market. He was ultimately suspended for life by MLB, but for an organization previously piloted by Bobby Cox and John McHale, the incident may have set the Braves back some in their charge to the future.
A rebound of sorts will likely occur this summer when Chipper Jones is installed in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and we’ll probably see the Braves make a big deal of that (as well they should), but it’s not likely those three days in Cooperstown will overshadow the reality of what Braves fans will see on the field.
But as far as the Braves go this year, there are too many pieces to fill and little time left to do it.
Prediction: The Mets catch a break, and they should be able to handle the Braves with relative ease, finishing with a modest three-game edge over their rivals 11-8.
Finally, we get to the Miami Marlins as one of the most publicized teams of the offseason. Unfortunately, for Marlins fans, the publicity has come about for all the wrong reasons. The excitement caused when it was announced Derek Jeter, and his consortium had bought the team has since evaporated.
Operating in debt under Jeffrey Loria for several years, Loria, according to an ESPN report, was rewarded with an almost doubling the estimated $675 million at which Forbes valued the franchise when he sold the team.
Operating on the fringes of debt themselves, Jeter and company immediately began an assault on the payroll by unloading Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, and Marcel Ozuna in trades, and it doesn’t appear the purge is complete.
Overall, it’s been an uncomfortable offseason for Jeter and the Marlins fan base. Miami is not a baseball town, and attendance has always been an issue. Now, it’s likely to get even worse, meaning the road back will be long and arduous.
Jeter, in all likelihood, is tapped out and cannot pour more of his money into the franchise, and unless his partners are able and willing to do so, the team will be stuck in a rebuilding for several years to come.
As a result, there’s a good chance the Marlins will not be long for the city of Miami before Major League Baseball steps in and says, enough is enough, forcing a move to the burgeoning state of Texas or elsewhere, where money still lives in cities like Austin and San Antonio.
Prediction: For the Mets, all of this is good news, if only because there is at least one franchise other than their own in trouble financially. In terms of one the field play and on paper only, the Mets should romp over the hapless Marlins winning the series between them by a margin of 13-6.
Totaling It Up
If these numbers come close to the Mets performance against the NL East, the team will finish four games over .500 at 40-36, mostly courteous of the Miami Marlins. This should be good enough to encourage a third-place finish in the division behind the Phillies and Nationals.
Things could get better or worse though because the Mets have drawn the American League East as their interleague opponents in 2018. Right off the bat, this means the Mets will play the Yankees six times instead of the usual four as well the Boston Red Sox, Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays in a six-game home and away series.
With the pressure off for the upcoming season, the Mets could be a team that might surprise, especially when it comes to interleague play where they can operate as spoilers in the American League East.
Much to the chagrin of their fans, the Mets will be playing with house money in 2018. Not much is expected, and it’s likely not much will be delivered.