Here in New York, it is easy for fans to develop skewed expectations for their favorite teams. What separates us from the rest of the world is the never-ending, seesaw ride our teams seem to take us on. The glass-half-full mantra too often transforms into a glass-half-empty reality. Our attitudes are fueled repeatedly by writers and radio hosts who enable our perpetually unfair expectations.
Don’t get me wrong. This applies to all fan bases, but New York is a different animal, especially when it comes to baseball. With an unprecedented amount of games to be played and both leagues trending toward more parity each season, the door is constantly left open for the pendulum of momentum to swing a team’s way. Nowhere is this truer than in the Big Apple, where a three-game losing streak generates more discussion than a winning streak of the same length.
The 2014 Mets exemplify this madness perfectly. After finishing the first half of the season winning eight of ten games including a sweep of the Marlins, the Mets headed into the All-Star break five games below .500. This run seemed to rejuvenate the team, leading many otherwise AWOL fans to abandon the designation temporarily.
Just a few games after the All-Star break and the Mets’ performances have their fans crashing back down to reason. They’ve now suffered through nine walk-off losses this season and are a miserable 14-21 in one-run games, clear signs of bullpen woes that have not been addressed. They’ve been shutout by their opponent eight times, a statistic that demonstrates their offensive deficiencies. In addition, they’re well below the major league average in all major offensive categories.
With one wild card team likely to come from within their division and plenty more proven and capable teams chasing the second berth, the Mets’ 2014 outlook is looking bleaker by the day. From here on out, fans can look forward to seeing the continued nurturing of their young players like Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jenrry Mejia and Juan Lagares all of whom have shown some promise recently. These players will have access to a consistent amount of playing time as the team gathers its bearings for next season.
Over the next several days, the chance remains that the Mets will deal some of their veteran players. Bartolo Colon is the most prominent name on the trading block. Colon has established himself as a durable starting pitcher despite his age (41) and could make for a solid starting pitching upgrade to any contending team. Recent reports suggest that the Mets would be unwilling to take on any of his salary ($9 million in 2014, $11 million in 2015) something I believe they should consider strongly if it will improve their haul in a trade. Their most prominent need is offense, as evidenced by their lineup’s lackluster performance at the major league level and lack of promising prospects in their minor League system.
The biggest question about a possible deal for Colon is what the Mets will request in return. Receiving one or more prospects would be ideal, but after years of floundering in the National League East division, the Mets need a big league hitter to add to their lineup. The Giants are the most recent team to have reportedly checked in on Colon, though I’m not convinced the Mets would get their preferred return from them.
A more reasonable fit would be the Baltimore Orioles, who expressed interest in Colon as a free agent this offseason and could use him as a reinforcement in their thin starting rotation. Baltimore has a collection of intriguing position players that the Mets may be able to reel in, though most are still playing on their rookie contracts which would force New York to pay some of Colon’s salary. It should also be noted that with Nelson Cruz set for free agency at the end of this season, making the O’s reluctant to deal any potential replacements for him in 2015.
The outcome of the trade deadline will likely end with the Mets as sellers, and any deal that positions them nicely for next season should be considered a success. The Mets will continue to be vulnerable for as long as the New York press finds them interesting, and only time will tell if trading a player like Colon is worth it. That intrigue could decrease once the deadline passes as it has over the last several seasons. For now, Mets fans must get through these times by embracing the promise of the future, though no one should blame us for crossing our fingers and hoping the future comes sooner rather than later.