Will Mickey Callaway be able to reverse the fortunes of the New York Mets?
In 2006, the New York Mets were the talk of the baseball world. The Mets went 97-65 which was the best record in the National League and they had a solid core of players that was led by shortstop Jose Reyes, third baseman David Wright, and outfielder Carlos Beltran that appeared ready to take the Big Apple by storm. But in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, Beltran struck out looking with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2007, the Mets would blow a seven-game division lead with 17 games remaining in the regular season as they watched the Philadelphia Phillies win the NL East. In 2008, the Mets would enter the month of September with a three-game lead over the Phillies for the top spot in the NL East. But once again the Phillies would catch the Mets, and when the season ended, it was Philadelphia that was crowned as World Series Champions. This would also mark the second consecutive year in which the Mets missed the playoffs by one game.
The wheels began to fall off for the Mets in 2009 as injuries severely depleted their roster and they finished with a record of 70-92. Around this time, the Mets team finances were put in dire straits when it was revealed that team owner Fred Wilpon was a victim of Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme. And because of this there was a possibility that Wilpon would be forced to sell the Mets, but he stuck around which hurt the team as they had to dump payroll as they would become one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball.
In 2010, Wilpon sought out the help from his friend in Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig who would recommend Sandy Alderson to be the Mets new general manager. At the time Alderson was working in the MLB offices, but he had previous experience as a general manager as he had led the Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres to the playoffs.
And when Alderson arrived in Queens, he preached patience as this was not going to be a quick fix as far as the Mets being able to contend. Prior to the start of the 2011 Major League Baseball season, Alderson would name Terry Collins as the Mets manager. And in each of their first four seasons together, the Mets never posted a winning record, but they were getting younger while putting an emphasis on developing their talent in the minor leagues.
Heading into 2015, the Mets would have been happy to just finish with a winning record for the first time since 2008 as it would have been seen as a building block for this organization. But things changed for the Mets when they began the season by coming out of the chute like gangbusters as they reeled off 11 consecutive victories in the month of April. The Mets would start with a record of 13-3 and in the media capital of the world that is New York City, people were beginning to once again talk about the Mets.
Solid starting pitching would keep the Mets afloat, but their offense would consistently struggle which was highlighted by them losing four games by the score of 1-0 as they were simply frustrating to watch. In mid-June, the Mets would fall under .500 as they lost seven consecutive games, but they would rebound to be 47-42 at the All-Star break. Then on July 29, the Mets announced a trade that was going to send shortstop Wilmer Flores and starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for outfielder Carlos Gomez. The trade was announced during the Mets game against the San Diego Padres, and it appeared to be a recipe for disaster as they allowed Flores to remain in the game after telling him the news. Flores couldn’t hold back the tears of disappointment while he was playing and it appeared to be another wrong turn for the Mets as they left the youngster naked to the world.
A few hours later, the Mets backed out of the deal with the Brewers as they were not satisfied with Gomez’s medical report and another chapter of ineptitude was written in franchise history.
But hope sprung eternal for the Mets as two days later, they would acquire outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. And the trade with the Tigers was made just prior to a huge weekend series for the Mets against the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals came to New York with a three-game lead over the Mets for first place in the National League East, but there was a buzz around Citi Field that hadn’t been there since the park opened in 2009 as the fans there were just waiting for something to explode about. The explosion came in the bottom of 12th inning when Flores broke a 1-1 tie with a walk-off home run to give the Mets the victory. The Mets would go on to sweep the Nats which created a tie atop the NL East and they were just getting started.
In the month of August, the Mets would go 19-8 to solidify themselves as the team to beat in the National League East while Cespedes was becoming a household name and in the process, making a ton of money for himself this off-season as he is set to enter free agency. In just 51 games with the Mets, Cespedes is batting .296 with 17 home runs and 44 runs batted in to actually garner some interest about being the NL MVP this year. Cespedes has put the Mets lineup on his back and in the process, he has become the most important player in team history since Mike Piazza. And when the Mets needed to put a stranglehold on the division lead, Cespedes was at the forefront.
On Labor Day, the Mets traveled to D.C. to meet the Nationals for a three-game series. New York was nursing a four-game lead, but they rallied to sweep the Nats and in the series, Cespedes hit a pair of home runs while also driving in 7 runs. The Mets never looked back and this past Saturday evening, they were able to wrap up their first National League East Championship since 2006.
It is has been a total team effort for the Mets as their aren’t any egos on this team which is a testament to the stoic demeanor of Alderson. Alderson built this team through a series of key trades while developing the Mets minor-league system. In 2011, Alderson traded Beltran to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Wheeler. At the time, Wheeler was a prospect in the Giants system, but they were forced to part with him as they were looking a quality bat in their pursuit to repeat as World Series Champions. That off-season, the Mets allowed Reyes to walk in free agency as they could not afford the six-year, $100 million contract that he received from the Miami Marlins. After starting pitcher R.A. Dickey won the National League Cy Young Award in 2012, the Mets traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays who were desperate to improve their pitching staff. And in exchange for Dickey, the Mets would receive catcher Travis d’Arnaud and starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard who were prospects at the time which is exactly what Alderson wanted and it has come full circle this year.
The Mets drafted starting pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz, while along with Syndergaard and Wheeler who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, New York has their rotation for the next few years.
When the 2015 Major League Baseball season began, relief pitcher Jeurys Familia was supposed to be the setup man for relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia. But when Mejia tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Familia stepped up for the Mets as he is third in the National League this season in saves with 42.
Last year the Mets signed outfielder Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million deal which at the time appeared to be a head scratcher. In 2014, Granderson batted a career-low .227 with the Mets as he was attempting to carry the Mets lineup. But Collins decided to shift Granderson to the leadoff position and along with more depth now in the Mets lineup, his numbers have improved as he is currently tied for the club lead in home runs with 25. Mets first baseman Lucas Duda had to earn his position as a fan favorite with the Mets. When Duda first broke in with the Mets in 2010, the team attempted to put him in right field as they were sold on Ike Davis being their everyday first baseman. But last year the Mets gave up on Davis and when they traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Duda became New York’s full-time first baseman. Duda has rewarded Alderson’s trust in him as he hit 30 home runs last year while he is tied with Granderson for the team lead in home runs this season with 25.
And for Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy, they have seen the best of times and worst of times for the Mets. Wright became a New York heartthrob in the mid-2000’s for his boyish looks and his ability at the plate as he appeared to be the heir apparent to Piazza as far as being the face of the Mets franchise. Murphy debuted with the Mets in 2008, and together he and Wright have stuck it out in New York during the thin years. And with the Mets going back to the postseason next month, it will be extra sweet for Murphy and Wright as it was once expected for them to be a frequent October participant as they now see how difficult that it is for them to get back there.
Whereas there was a time when the Mets couldn’t find the money to get quality players to come to Queens, they are now lining up to come there as this is a team that is ready to contend and that players want to be a part of. And speaking of lining up, the Mets are now near capacity for every home game which is a far cry from a few years ago when they couldn’t give away tickets to fill the stadium. It’s true that if you build it, they will come and the Mets have a solid of blend of youngsters and veterans that are ready to take New York and Major League Baseball by storm. We’ve seen in the past how Shea Stadium would be rocking for playoff baseball, and now Citi Field will have its chance next week. From top to bottom, the Mets were an organization that people had forgotten about a few years ago. But now they are the talk of the town and who knows how far that this will be able to go next month.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, barring a nosedive down the stretch of this season, the New York Mets are expected to retain manager Terry Collins for the 2015 Major League Baseball season. Collins is in his fourth season as the Mets skipper and under his watch the team has never won more than 77 games in a season. This season the Mets are on pace to win 75 games and for the eighth consecutive season the Metropolitans will more than likely not make the postseason. The Mets are also on their way to their sixth consecutive losing season and their fan base that is already frustrated will not be satisfied to know that Collins is expected to return for 2015.
What Collins represents is the image of a stuntman for Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and team owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon. We all know that the Wilpons were taken to the cleaners after their dealings with convicted ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff a few years ago which has had a negative affect on the franchise. The same way that the Wilpons have penny pinched in the past few seasons as far as fielding a team is the same way that they have dealt with their managerial staff. If Collins was that good as an MLB manager why had he been out of work in the big leagues since 1999 before the Mets hired him in 2011?
After being swept this week by the Washington Nationals, the Mets now have a record of 57-65 and they are now 10.5 games behind those same Nats for first place in the National League East. Most people didn’t listen to Alderson’s boast in spring training that the Mets would be able to win 90 games this season and with about six weeks left in the regular season his pipe dream is just that. This season the Mets have only been above .500 for 14 days and under Collins, they have never entered the month of September with a winning record which shows that his teams tune him out down the stretch.
The Mets have not retained a manager that led them to three consecutive losing season since Joe Torre who was fired in 1981. At that point the Mets were a lost cause and fans were tuning the team out: Sound familiar? The Mets will more than likely keep Collins on board when they have former Mets second baseman Wally Backman who is managing their Triple-A affiliate in the Las Vegas 51s and he is more than qualified to be in Queens. Backman has won at every level in the Mets minor-league system and unlike Collins he might actually help the big league club win some games.
Teams such as the Nationals who have won 11 straight games versus the Mets at Citi Field are fearless when they arrive there which is something that a manager like Backman would change. Unlike Collins, Backman asks now quarter and gives no quarter as well. Backman was a member of the Mets last World Series Champion in 1986 and he is no-nonsense guy which is something that the Wipons and Alderson apparently do not want. Instead of presenting future Hall of Famers such as Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera with more gifts after the Mets laid down for them during their careers, Backman would instead lead a team that would look to blast their teeth in. But Backman won’t manage the Mets since the Wilpons obviously do not want to win.
Since their on-the-field product is not currently successful, the Wilpons have been forced to be creative in order to get fans to come to Citi Field which has included concerts from the likes of Nas, 50 Cent, and Huey Lewis and The News as well as sleepovers. But instead of the Wilpons going into their pockets to sweet talk Grammy Award winners to perform at an empty stadium, why not get baseball players on the payroll who will entice people to pack up the family and get on the Grand Central Parkway and watch a few games?
The Mets began this season with the 23rd lowest payroll in MLB and their record reflects that. The Mets are still an offensively challenged team as they are 10th in the National League in runs scored (463), 13th in hits (987) and home runs (89) while they are 14th in batting average (.238) and slugging percentage (.358). On the flip side the Mets pitching staff has the seventh best team earned run average in the NL at 3.57 and they’re fifth in quality starts with (75). But the Mets bullpen has blown 17 games this year which is tied for third in the National League.
Due to the fact that Collins and Alderson are acting as the errand boys for the Wilpons who are financially strapped, we can expect a Mets team in 2015 that will once again be near the bottom of the team payrolls in Major League Baseball. And if the Mets do decide to spend some money it will once again be on a player that is well past his prime. If you build it they will come and in business if you don’t spend money, you will not make any money. With Collins on board the Mets will continue to lose and losing leads to empty seats at the ballpark. The Mets might as well make Citi Field an extension to Flushing Meadow Park and allow the people of Queens to have another picnic area there because it is not worthy to host Major League Baseball.