Last Tuesday, we published a breakdown of the Mets’ outlook for 2018 and beyond. The first draft of that article was much, much longer, however, and the original provides a much deeper dive into how the Mets got to this point, what the problems with the team currently are, and where the team is probably headed. Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing that longer original in parts, digging into the Mets’ organization to reset our understanding of the current roster. This is Part 1.
Two years ago, the 2015 Mets offered what was almost the idealized season for fans. An underdog after half a decade of half-halfheartedly rebuilding, the team had some interesting pieces but wasn’t expected to be a serious contender. Instead, the tantalizing young talent clicked and carried the Mets to a National League Pennant. They stormed past the Nationals with a pair of sweeps, including a Sunday Night Baseball game where the Mets hit three home runs in five pitches (make sure you listen to Josh Lewin’s call) and an incredible play in Washington that gave us one of the best images of David Wright we’ll ever have. There was Wilmer Flores’ Tears of Joy moment, a series of events that earned him a place in fans’ hearts forever. In the playoffs, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey all shoved, while Daniel Murphy became Babe Ruth reincarnate. It was the perfect blend of a hungry fanbase, a fun group of players, and a mountain of (mostly) unexpected success.
Of course, the results weren’t what anyone wanted as Lucas Duda’s throw home went wide and the Royals won the World Series in New York, but the disappointment was very much muted by the idea that this team was here to stay. The young pitching talent seemed ready to establish a new rivalry with the young hitting talent assembled in Chicago. The 2016 offseason went swimmingly, as the Mets bolstered their roster in the hopes of returning to the World Series and getting the job done this time.
Instead, more disappointment. David Wright played even less than he did in 2015, as spinal stenosis robbed him of his chance to finally play on a good Mets team. Matt Harvey was terrible before undergoing surgery to correct Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, essentially a death sentence for an ace. Daniel Murphy, who the Mets let go in free agency, somehow sustained his streak of success from the playoffs and became one of the best hitters in the league for the Nationals. Michael Conforto struggled through a wrist injury that the Mets mismanaged. They did make the playoffs as the first Wild Card team, but they were shut down by Madison Bumgarner to end their season.
This time around, the disappointment stuck a bit more. The Mets were middling throughout most of 2016, and missed an opportunity to capitalize on one of the best seller’s markets in a decade (the Yankees capitalized and flipped their two elite relievers for some of the best prospects in the game) while also acquiring a corner outfielder who didn’t really fit in Jay Bruce. The offseason was also underwhelming, as the team largely chose to run the same team back for 2017.
Predictably, bringing back almost the entirety of the same mediocre squad from 2016 did not go well. Starting pitchers dropped like flies (more on this later), exposing the team’s lack of depth. Wright still couldn’t get on the field. Yoenis Cespedes fought through multiple leg injuries. Neil Walker and Lucas Duda both missed extended time, as did Asdrubal Cabrera. Any fans hoping for a bright spot of the future when Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith debuted were also disappointed, as both (particularly the latter) struggled mightily in their first taste of the majors. To top it off, Conforto, on pace for 35 HR and more than six WARP, tore his posterior shoulder capsule on a swing, an injury doctors had never seen before in baseball. When the team decided to start moving veterans, they found a market oversaturated with sellers, and got little in terms of talent back as ownership prioritized freeing up money.
This leaves the team at a point where Eric Hosmer’s dash home feels more and more like Yadier Molina hitting a two-run home run off of Aaron Heilman in the 2006 NLCS. Both the 2006 and 2015 teams were very good and a whole lot of fun to root for. Both fell just short, but each time were believed to be set up as perennial contenders. The 2006 team never made it back to the playoffs, and the remnants of the 2015 team are dangerously close to heading down a similarly disappointing path.