We’re only a few weeks away from the beginning of March, and if you’re a sports fan, you already know what that means – a brand new season of Major League Baseball. For thousands of fans in the local area, that means another season of ups and downs following the New York Mets. It’s been a hectic off-season at Citi Field even by the Mets standards, and there’s a lot to watch out for as the games begin.
While predicting the fortunes of the Mets has always been difficult, given the turmoil that’s gone on behind the scenes recently, it’s harder than ever. A dollar spent on backing the Mets to win or lose would be no more secure than a dollar spent on the ‘Baseball Star’ online slots game that’s a favorite of so many slots websites like RoseSlots.com. Gambling and playing online slots make for an apt metaphor for the Mets at the moment – the team’s owners have been playing an online slots game of their very own as they’ve tinkered with coaches and players, and nobody can say for sure if the current squad will form a ‘winning line’ or not. Is a big season on the cards for them? Let’s take a deeper dive and see what we can find.
The story that dominated the off-season for the Mets was the hiring – and subsequent firing – of Carlos Beltran in the wake of the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. Although Beltran’s exit was presented as a mutual decision, it was immediately apparent that he couldn’t continue in his position when he was implicated in the scandal, and his departure without overseeing a single game is a black mark in the history of the Mets. The subsequent appointment of Luis Rojas as the manager is a gamble. He’s an experienced coach, but he’s never managed at this level before. If the Mets thought of him as a viable manager, he would likely have got the job before Beltran was approached. Rojas has benefited from Beltran’s mistakes, but whether he has enough about him to deliver a successful season on the field remains to be seen. He’s ascended during a time of chaos, and only time will tell whether fate has been kind to the Mets in the long run.
There are also questions to be answered of Dellin Betances who is, on paper at least, the only star signing made by the Mets since we last saw them. If he’s still the same Dellin Betances who spent eight seasons with the Yankees, picking him up on a one year contract is likely to be a smart piece of business even if it does come at the cost of more than ten million dollars per year. Whether he’s capable of rediscovering his best form, though, remains to be seen. He’s been an All-Star in the past, and at 31 is still (just about) in the prime of his career, but last season he managed a sum total of one appearance. Injuries of the type that he’s had sap strength from players and not all of them get that strength back. As of the time of writing, he’s understood to be fully fit and well-prepared for spring training. He could be a huge asset to the bullpen, or he could spend half the season watching on from the sidelines.
There’s another player itching to get back into the action at the Mets who fans haven’t seen for a very long time. In case you’ve forgotten he exists at all, his name is Yoenis Cespedes. The last time he saw any action at all was July 2018, eighteen months ago. The fact he’s still there and trying to get back into the team at all is a testament to his strength of character, but he’s surely drinking in the last chance saloon. Like Betances, a fully fit Cespedes would be a huge asset – but can a player who’s been away for such a long time be expected to reach the same level they were at before their time away?
We don’t want to spend this entire article dwelling on potential negatives, so let’s look at what could be possible if fate decides to go in the team’s favor for once. DeGrom is still there and looks as good as ever. J.D. Davis and McNeil had promising seasons in 2019 and will be looking to build on their relative success. If Betances is fit, the long-standing issue of insufficient depth in the bullpen may be gone. The idea of winning the NL East isn’t out of the question if everyone performs to the best of their ability, and Luis Rojas turns out to have the strength of character to push his players to the next level.
What’s counting against them is the sheer amount of uncertainty about some of the team’s best assets, and the question marks that always come with appointing a manager with no MLB track record. We’ve talked about the importance of players staying fit, and we’ve done that because if they don’t, it’s easy to see where the team is going to fall down. Wilson Ramos isn’t getting any younger, and neither is Robinson Cano. Betances could sit out his contract trying to recover from one injury after another, and Cespedes could spend his time keeping Betances company. With a few bad results back to back, panic will set in, and the team – as they so often have in the past – will likely start trying to make dramatic rebuilding moves without giving any thought to the long term repercussions. If things aren’t going smoothly by the time the trade deadline hits, all bets are off the table.
We’d love to be able to tell Mets fans that good times are just around the corner, but we find ourselves unable to do that with any confidence. If it’s any consolation, we can’t rule out the chance that they’ll surprise a few people, including most of the sports press. Hold on to your hats, Mets fans – the 2020 season looks like it’s going to be a wild ride.