As of the time this is being written, the Mets’ magic number is down to two. By the time this is published, they could be eliminated from postseason contention. And you know what, that’s fine, because next year is going to be fun.
I’m not going to lie, I gave up on the playoffs twice this season. The first time was all the way back at the end of May when Edwin Diaz blew a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to the Los Angeles Dodgers. A win in that game would have clinched at the very least a series split with one of the best teams in baseball and put the one game above .500, but instead, the Mets lost three out of four and set Diaz on a downward spiral to last the rest of the season.
Then, in late July to early August, the Mets won 17 out of 20 games, and in the process pulled them above .500 for the first time since May 2. Suddenly, I started to believe again, after all, the Mets were playing like (and recordwise they were) the best team in baseball since the All-Star break.
The loss of hope that stuck was on Aug. 20, when the Mets lost to the Chicago Cubs 4-1 in a Jacob deGrom start, capping off a six-game losing streak that included series sweeps by the Cubs and Atlanta Braves. The Cubs were, at the time, the Mets’ chief competition in the Wild Card race, and if they had been the ones who swept the series, they would have pulled themselves even for the last month of the season. Instead, they put themselves in a hole that proved too big to climb out of.
However, there are still plenty of positives from this season. With their win over the Reds on Sunday, the Mets picked up win No. 81, guaranteeing they won’t finish under the .500 mark. If they win just one of their remaining six games, it’ll be their first winning season where they didn’t make the playoffs since 2009. With three more games against the Marlins on the schedule, odds are they do (please don’t be a jinx).
First and foremost, the National League Rookie of the Year, Pete Alonso. As of writing, Alonso is hitting .264/.363/.585 with 50 home runs, 115 RBI and a WAR of 5.1. He’s cemented himself as a cornerstone of the franchise for the foreseeable future and as one of the best power hitters in the MLB.
The rest of the lineup has a ton of potential, as for the first time in a few years the Mets’ lineup is actually a strength. Jeff McHits is one of the best pure hitters in baseball, Michael Conforto is a solid middle of the lineup hitter and Wilson Ramos, despite his defensive deficiencies, is one of the best hitting catchers in the majors. They also have a great group of young talent who blossomed this season when they got the opportunity to play. Shortstop Amed Rosario has finally started to come into his own, hitting .318/.350/.458 since the All-Star break and has cleaned up his early defensive struggles. Left fielder/third basemen J.D. Davis has hit .306/369/.515 this season in just 392 at-bats; once he finally got the opportunity to play every day due to some injuries, he has been one of the best players on the entire team. First baseman/left fielder Dom Smith has turned himself from pariah to fan favorite in just one season, hitting for a good average, showing some pop and being successful as a pinch hitter, something that some of the best hitters can’t even do.
And that’s just the hitting.
The pitching has the potential to be equally as strong. deGrom is possibly the best pitcher in the entire MLB and Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz all have the potential to be No. 1s or No. 2s, as they comprise one of the best rotations in the league. As for the bullpen, well, that’s what has been the downfall of the team in 2019. However, you have to hope that with a full offseason to work on it, they fix Diaz and bring in a couple of reliable arms. With a good Diaz paired with Lugo, Wilson and a few new arms, the pen can finally win the games they should have won in 2019.
I don’t think they need to make any big offseason moves either. One of the popular trains of thought is that the Mets need a center fielder, but as long as Brandon Nimmo stays healthy, he should be able to fill that need. And who knows, if Yoenis Cespedes is healthy (it’s a contract year for him and we all know how he operates), Conforto has shown he can handle himself out in center. But for now, let’s not plan on it.
Their main focus should obviously be the pen, but seeing as Zack Wheeler is likely out the door after this season, a fifth starter should also be on the list. Add a veteran or two to the bench like Howie Kendrick, Ben Zobrist or even our old friend Wilmer Flores and the team becomes very well rounded as well.
A lineup of McNeil, Rosario, Conforto, Alonso, Davis, Ramos, Cano, Nimmo and deGrom has the possibility to be good enough to stand up to any lineup in the league and then some. The best part is that the Mets already have all these pieces and most of them are young and controllable.
Sure, they didn’t make the postseason this year, but next year they will be back. With a few minor moves in the offseason, they can be legitimate World Series contenders not only next year, but with the strength of this young core, they can be contenders for years to come.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Jorge.firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @jorge_eckardt31