I usually try to look at the glass as half full when thinking/writing about the Mets. After all, six months is a long slog of a regular season, and teams can go through various iterations of themselves before we see who they really are. But when it comes to Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter, I’ve seen enough after what just happened at Citizens Bank Park this weekend.
Am I jumping the gun a little bit? Maybe I’m being a little too harsh? Too emotional? It’s possible, but there are only so many excruciating losses I can sit through before reaching my limit.
New York had a 6-3 lead in the eighth inning on Sunday. Another series win against the Phillies was surely coming, right? No, of course not. Philadelphia scored four runs despite registering just one hit. This comeback was made possible because the Mets’ bullpen and defense handed it to them. There was a throwing error by Brett Baty, four walks, and two batters hit by a pitch (both with the bases loaded, mind you).
That gave Philly a 7-6 lead, which they held onto as New York went away quietly in the ninth to drop to 35-42 on the year. Showalter’s club is 15 (!) games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and 8.5 (!!) games behind the final NL Wild Card spot.
Despite what we hear out of the clubhouse each night, this isn’t a good team right now. They will continue to be a bad team until proven otherwise because actually winning baseball games speaks louder than any version of “We’ll put it all together soon”.
What’s bothered me since Sunday afternoon, though, is Showalter’s bullpen management in the eighth inning. Josh Walker, Jeff Brigham, and Vinny Nittoli were all needed to record three outs.
Why didn’t Buck use his most dependable relievers to close out the game and win a series against their divisional foe? MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reported that both Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raley weren’t available (even though Ottavino said he could pitch). Do you know who was available, though? David Robertson. Here’s Showalter’s reason for not bringing him in:
Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raley were both unavailable today, Buck Showalter said. He didn't use David Robertson in the eighth because he wanted to save his closer for the ninth.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) June 25, 2023
Ah, yes — because he’s never brought Robertson in before the ninth inning when the situation called for it. Oh, wait…he has. Credit to the SNY booth, and specifically Gary Cohen, for calling it as he sees it:
Gary Cohen with David Robertson finally warming up, “That’s interesting, right? They went that entire meltdown without a hint of Adam Ottavino or David Robertson, but now that their behind, Robertson is throwing.” https://t.co/lap881Gm2X
— Mike Mayer (@mikemayer22) June 25, 2023
“Buck Showalter tried to stay away from his best relievers, and the Mets paid the price.” – Gary Cohen, nailing it as always
— Patrick (@patrickrglynn) June 25, 2023
Those in-game decisions were bad enough. But then the justification in the clubhouse afterward when getting asked about it by the media was even worse:
— Matt Musico (@mmusico8) June 25, 2023
Obviously, it’s not just this one game and a handful of decisions that’s led me to feel such disgust toward what’s going on. The Mets have been playing sloppy baseball for weeks now. Mental and physical errors galore, which is weird since Showalter has a reputation for being a details guy:
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) June 24, 2023
I’ve seen a few MLB reporters talk about how they don’t believe firing Showalter will have the same effect as firing Joe Girardi did last year for the Phillies. I can agree with that for the most part. But enough is enough. The season is spiraling out of control, and I can’t remember the last time I went consecutive days without Buck saying or doing something that made me shake my head. It’s time for a change.
The same goes in the front office with Eppler. After all, he’s the reason why Buck Showalter has a bunch of optionable relief pitchers in the first place. Buck hasn’t managed his bullpen very well, but he can also only play with the cards he’s given. It doesn’t help that the starting rotation hasn’t been nearly as good as anticipated. For a team that entered this year with a payroll in excess of $350 million, what’s been happening is unacceptable.
Could there be a tipping point for owner Steve Cohen, even though he said he’s not going to blow up? Who knows. My guess is we won’t see any huge change. Maybe Buck Showalter eventually gets canned. But since the Mets are too focused on pointing toward their 2022 results instead of trying to fix 2023, it’ll probably be too late. If it even happens.
We’re also approaching about one month before the trade deadline, so it’s hard to see how Eppler gets the boot right now, too. Maybe this winter if they’re able to nab David Stearns, but that’s all to be determined.
One thing we can be certain of, though, is that heads need to start rolling after what just happened this weekend. And it’s not just because of Sunday. It’s the culmination of everything. What happened against the Phillies was just icing on the cake.