Keidel: Mets Always Find A Way To Ruin A Promising Future

Jason Keidel
July 08, 2019 - 12:08 pm
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It has been four years since the Mets were in the World Series, when, naturally, their bullpen blew it. 

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For Mets fans, it must feel like a decade since they lost those agonizing games to the Royals. But at least they made the playoffs in the 2016 season and carried four future aces - a granite foundation upon which they could simply sprinkle the right pieces and contend for years to come. 

That never happened, of course. But just last year, all four pitchers - Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz - posted an ERA under 4.00. deGrom had his superhero season in 2018, one of the best for a starter in MLB history. The foursome went 40-31. And it felt like this year Syndergaard would cement his comic book sobriquet (Thor) and contend for the NL Cy Young Award. 

Not so much. DeGrom is 4-7 with a 3.27 ERA. Syndergaard is 6-4 with a 4.68 ERA. Wheeler is 6-6 with a 4.69 ERA after yesterday's brutal start. Steven Matz is 5-6 with a 4.89 ERA. We considered the 2018 Mets a solemn bunch at 77-85. This year, the Mets enter the All-Star Game already ten games under .500 (40-50), and their bedrock starters have a combined record of 21-23. 

This isn't quite Generation K - the mid-‘90s failure that featured starting pitchers Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson. That pitching triumvirate never sniffed its potential in the Big Apple, whereas this current crop has given us enough to expect exponentially more. Even when the Mets have a surefire baseball weapon, it turns into a popgun. 

It's unfair to blame the Mets' rotation for all the team's defects. The bullpen, an eyesore of historic contours, is the only one to blow 8-plus saves in back-to-back months since they've kept track of such stats. In 2016, Jeurys Familia notched 51 saves and a 2.55 ERA. This year, the former Mets closer, who should be in his prime at age 29, is toiling in the bowels of their bullpen, with a 7.50 ERA and 1.833 WHIP. 

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To read the headlines and hear the chatter around Big Apple baseball, you'd never think it's been the Yankees who are ten years removed from their last World Series appearance, with the Mets four years from their last Fall Classic. Even the Brooklyn Nets have wrenched the back page from the Knicks. Yet the Mets seem doomed to their subterranean spot in the food chain. 

You can point to Yoenis Cespedes finding new ways to break bones and miss games. You can point to their infertile farm system - that still spawned Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil - as another reason for this four-year decay. The Mets also hired a player agent, the chair-throwing Brodie Van Wagenen, with zero front-office hours under his belt to replace baseball lifer Sandy Alderson. 

You can blame Mickey Callaway, who seems blinded by the burning lights of Broadway. You can blame the most recent offseason, which has put biblical money on the Mets' payroll but has brought few results on the field. You can blame a bullpen that qualifies for a Peanuts parody more than a major-league pitching staff.

But nothing stays on course with the Mets. Even their crosstown tormentors, the Yankees, can suffer all sorts of mangled limbs and torn tendons yet still soar well into first place, with the best record in the American League. If there was one menace over the Yankees' machine, it was starting pitching, yet the club is 57-31, favored to play for their 28th World Series title. 

The Mets still have a mid-'90s look; they’re chasing the Braves and are woefully short of the Yankees. The Mets remain optimistic, of course, reminding us that they are one long run from contention. But that summer-saving streak is about as far away as Generation K.  

Follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel