Remember when the New York Mets were supposed to be the crown jewel of the National League this year? Or, at the very least, the NL East. Now they’re not even a .500 ballclub (.472), setting eight games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves and third in the division with the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals nipping at their heels.
If the Mets want to stay relevant contenders moving forward, major changes must be made, and quick.
4. Starting pitchers need to stay healthy … and start winning
The Mets made newsworthy free agent acquisitions this offseason, whereby the end they’ll account for spending $806.1 million. The biggest of those free agents was SP Justin Verlander, who is coming off a World Series Championship with the Houston Astros. Verlander, at 39 last campaign and coming off Tommy John surgery from the previous year, showed little sign of rust or aging after posting a 1.75 ERA and winning his third Cy Young on the season.
Verlander’s start with the Mets didn’t begin well, though. He started the season on the IL with a low-grade teres major strain. His first game wasn’t until May 4, against one of his former teams, the Detroit Tigers. It wasn’t the start he was hoping for, however. He gave up five hits, two earned runs (both home runs), one walk with five strikeouts over five innings. The spark the Mets were hoping from him was quickly extinguished.
Max Scherzer, another ace, has also not helped the Mets, either. Scherzer has been one of the most intimidating pitchers that the game has ever seen, but every grunt and growl he’s thrown with this season may be due to frustration. Not only has he accounted for an un-Scherzer-like 5.56 ERA this season, he’s also been a part of the Mets problems of making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
On the April 19 game against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Scherzer was ejected in the middle of the fourth inning from the game by umpires after he was warned of sticky substances on his hands. Umpires did offer warnings to Scherzer after the second inning to wash his hands, and later after the third to replace his glove and wash his hands again.
Max Scherzer has been ejected from today’s game for using an illegal foreign substance on his glove
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 19, 2023
“The level of stickiness was much worse than it was even in the initial inspection that had taken place two innings prior,” home plate umpire and crew chief Dan Bellino said, per L.A. Times. “This was the stickiest that it has been since I’ve been inspecting hands, which now goes back three seasons.”
After 10 games and $10,000 less in his pocket, Scherzer returned on May 3. However, like his Verlander that day before against the Tigers, he got rocked, giving up eight hits and six earned runs, two home runs in only 3.1 innings.
It’s not as if the rest of the starting pitching has been any better. Outside of Kodai Senga, who the Mets signed as an unrestricted free agent from Japan, has been the only glimmer of hope with a 4-1 record. As a team for starting pitching (including Verlander’s one start), the Mets currently have a 5.36 ERA.
Also, Jose Quintana, who hasn’t played all season due to a rib injury, won’t be available until July.
3. Stop losing to losing teams
The Mets have lost 12 out of their last 15 games. It’s not out of the ordinary for teams to go through cold streaks, but when you’ve spent all the money that the Mets have over not only this past offseason, but others, they should at least be beating the teams with lesser talent than them. With the Colorado Rockies series this past Sunday, it was their fourth consecutive series loss–with three of those being to losing teams.
As of Wednesday night, the Mets face the Reds in Game 2 of a three-game series after losing 7-6 to them. During the said loss, Buck Showalter was ejected for the first time as Mets skipper. The Reds, who are in the middle of rebuilding, are third in the NL Central at 15-20, just ahead of a struggling Cardinals team.
2. Mets must get younger, not older
What seemed so puzzling about the Mets’ free agency over the last couple seasons is that they focused on veterans, as in old veterans. Scherzer is 38, Verlander is 40. But there’s also other aging players on the roster like Starling Marte (34), Mark Canha (34) and Eduardo Escobar (34) who were part of the 2021 free agent class for the Mets that have shown major signs of regression, whether due to injuries or age. The three, respectively, have a combined batting average of .199.
1. Francisco Lindor needs to earn his contract
It’s not just the old guys that aren’t producing, though. Star SS Francisco Lindor isn’t helping the lineup in anyway with his .224 batting average. Lindor, who was highly sought by the Mets in a trade with the Cleveland Guardians back in 2021, hasn’t come close to living up the potential the Mets had hoped for him coming from Cleveland. Lindor needs to be proving his worth in a Mets lineup that’s looking for a spark.
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