Sure, they had a new general manager and a new skipper, both of who made it clear that there would be a change in how the Mets do business, on and off the field. And yes, the roster had significant turnover from previous seasons, getting younger and cheaper while discarding the names and faces that had become synonymous with failure. But regardless of any self-generated hype put out by the Mets PR people, this team had a lot to prove before it could be considered a contender.
With so few expectations to start the season, April should have been a time for the team to figure out its identity without the pressures of the trade deadline or a pennant race. In typical Mets fashion, things have not gone according to plan.
Off to their third worst start in franchise history, the Mets managed to salvage the last game of the series in Atlanta and finally stop the bleeding at seven straight losses. After two more losses against a last-place Houston squad at Citi Field, the Mets had sole ownership of the worst record in the NL and all sorts of unwanted attention.
Dismal all-around play and a record that exemplified it cut the honeymoon short for this “new” Mets team and forced the question: Who can really help this team going forward?
To be fair, this season is far from over, and the team has responded nicely to win their last four games. Jason Bay returned to the lineup in the final game of the Houston series and has five hits in his first four games, including a home run, two doubles and three runs batted in. The rest of the lineup has benefitted from Bay’s return as well, hitting eight home runs and averaging 6.75 runs per game since he’s been back.
All that is well and good, but it has to be noted that Houston and Arizona, the team the Mets just swept, are two of the worst pitching staffs in the NL. Both clubs give up over five runs per game, making them one and two respectively in that category. On top of that, the Arizona staff leads the league in home runs allowed per game at 1.4.
A more reliable indicator that the Mets are coming together can be found in the recent success of the rotation. After struggling through the first several weeks, the rotation did a great job on their recent home stand, averaging seven innings per start with an ERA of 2.63. Both Houston and Arizona have respectable offensive clubs, particularly Arizona who is fourth in the league in runs scored and OPS.
Whether the Mets have turned a corner and can now contend with the rest of the big boys in the NL remains to be seen. So far, this team has lacked enough consistency to suggest it warrants any further expectations, good or bad.
Even without expectations, there should still be plenty to motivate this team since they are one more extended losing streak away from the barrage of questions about who should stay and who should go moving forward. If they want to focus on baseball and not on where they’ll be a year from now, the Mets need to maintain their recent play and push their way into a conversation about the possibilities of this season, not the future.