The only Mets goal that matters is there for the taking: Sherman
Here is the question all Mets fans should be asking.
Can we finish second?
Sure, no fan base wants to chant, “We’re No. 2.”
But remember that with expanded playoffs, eight clubs in each league make the playoffs and the top two in each division are guaranteed entry. So, like every team, the Mets want to finish first. But assuming MLB has a postseason — a huge assumption during a pandemic — second place will assure October games.
And with the likelihood of no fans and perhaps even neutral sites, being the “road” team in a playoff series will be less detrimental than ever.
Can the Mets finish as at least NL East silver medalists? The division is not made up of the 1927 Yankees or even the 2020 Yankees. Seeing your team’s flaws — Edwin Diaz’s inadequacy, Pete Alonso’s sophomore slump, Noah Syndergaard’s absence — is myopically familiar. So let’s deep dive into a flawed division in which the team in first place as of midweek was your …
1. MIami Marlins. Yep, after not playing for eight days and losing half their roster due to a COVID-19 outbreak within their team, the Marlins received the biggest break a team can in 2020: the Baltimore Orioles in the other sanitized dugout. Miami won its first three games out of its pandemic pause. Which, of all things, elevates this weekend series at CIti Field into what you want in early August — important games.
The Marlins are riding the no-one-believes-in-us choo-choo and that sense only grew with the league-wide response — validated to some degree by team CEO Derek Jeter conceding the club was lax about items such as mask wearing and social distancing — that Miami caused its own virus problems and nearly took the sport down with it.
The Marlins have young talent and new motivations and against the semi-pro Orioles their makeshift roster and on-the-fly pitching staff thrived. Perhaps that can be sustained for 60 games or whatever amount is shoehorned in for a team that was in quarantine for more than a week. So it is important for the Mets to stomp those dreams beginning this weekend so they can concentrate more fully on the expected NL East contenders, including the two-time defending division champ …
2. Atlanta Braves. The Mets were on the field when Atlanta lost perhaps its most indispensable player. For while Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman might be great, they have each other in a deep lineup. Atlanta’s rotation already was duct tape and hope, and then Mike Soroka tore his Achilles tendon against the Mets. So now the Braves don’t have their ace from a rotation that saw Felix Hernandez opt out in spring, Cole Hamels not in position to pitch before September at the earliest due to a shoulder ailment and Mike Foltynewicz sent to the minors because he lost too much weight and his fastball and success with it.
Talented but wild pitchers such as Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright will try to step in and up, but Atlanta fixated on its bullpen in the offseason and will need that and a strong lineup, albeit one now missing Ozzie Albies (bruised wrist), to carry the team. The Braves’ rotation issues were more foreseeable than those of the …
3. Washington Nationals won a World Series behind their rotation. But Stephen Strasburg has yet to pitch due to a nerve issue in his wrist. Max Scherzer left his start against the Mets with a hamstring injury he described as minor. If the Nationals can get that duo healthy in conjunction with Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez, they know they have a championship-tested rotation.
But with Anthony Rendon now an Angel and Ryan Zimmerman gone, the lineup is much thinner built mainly around (Juan) Soto and Savvy (Miguel Castro, Adam Eaton, Josh Harrison, Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames).
You know what has been shockingly good for the Nationals? Their bullpen (1.53 ERA through midweek). You know what has been worse than even low expectations …
4. The Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. After a Wednesday doubleheader split with the Yankees, Phillies relievers had an ERA (9.18) two runs a game worse than any other club. New manager Joe Girardi is an expert at pen manipulation. But with the Yankees he almost always had good choices from which to pick. In the first three games vs. the Yanks, Phillies starters Jake Arrieta, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola held hitters to a .209 average (9-for-43). Phillies relievers were beaten to a .667 average (10-for-15).
Coming off of their own Marlins-created shutdown, the Phillies were going to have to play 57 games in 56 days to complete a 60-game schedule. Which would mean being in that bullpen a lot. I have seen Girardi derive terrific work out of a lot of the Boone Logans, Edwar Ramirezes and Cory Wades, but that was almost always with the anchor of Mariano Rivera and David Robertson. This current pen had neither Rivera or Robertson (who actually is a Phillie but out after Tommy John surgery), and I am not even sure they have Logan, Ramirez and Wade.
So while Met fans rightfully moan about Diaz, worry about Dellin Betances and hope Seth Lugo took no steps back from last season, those three guys plus Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson are talented with pedigree. The Mets have a deeper lineup than the Nationals, Marlins and probably Phillies. Even with Syndergaard out and Marcus Stroman healing, they do not approach the Brave rotation issues.
Add it up and in this crazy season, why couldn’t they be at least second best?
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