The New York Mets hit their rock bottom of the 2016 season on Thursday. For the third straight game, they fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The same D-Backs team that is 17 games out of their own division. And for those Mets, it meant hitting the .500 mark.
Currently sitting at 57-57, this is certainly not where the team, or its fans, probably expect to be. Struggling to scrap together two wins in a row (a feat they haven’t achieved since July 6-7) and looking for answers, manager Terry Collins had a rather fiery post-game press conference on Thursday.
He spoke of wanting players who will take responsibility and start grinding it out. If he couldn’t find those players in the locker room in Flushing, he said he would grab players from Las Vegas (the Mets Triple-A affiliate) who are chomping at the bit to be the big leagues.
Coming off of a World Series trip, preseason expectations were understandably high for the Mets. But the lackluster play has made many fans wonder if Collins is part of the problem. Based on his in-game decisions, these concerns may be valid.
Repeatedly during the season, he has chosen to sit Conforto. Even with his stuggles, the 23-year-old needs to be seeing the field to get better, and playing Ty Kelly in his place is just one example.
This week, Collins didn’t pinch run for Bruce with outfielder Brandon Nimmo in Detroit, and it may have cost the team a game. With how they are going, they can’t afford to give away games like that.
Collins mismanagement of his players, both position and pitching, has certainly cost the teams games over the course of his tenure in Flushing. That doesn’t mean replacing him with Wally Backman or Bud Black would magically turn the Mets into a juggernaut.
But firing Collins won’t fix the more glaring problems that the Mets have. Take a gander at the Mets disabled list. You could form a pretty decent team just from those guys if they were healthy. David Wright, Matt Harvey and Asdrubal Cabrera are all gone for the season. Juan Lagares, Lucas Duda, Zack Wheeler, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Reyes are expected back at some point, but those dates aren’t very clear.
Harvey, Wright, Duda, Lagares and Cespedes were all key cogs in the Mets run to the World Series last season, and Asdrubal Cabrera was a key to keeping it all together this season.
Injuries happen, and it’s the job of the manager and general manager to put a product out there that can compete despite these injuries. But sometimes injuries are so overwhelming that there’s not a reasonable solution. And that’s what’s happening here.
What’s currently going out on the field for the Mets looks more like their Triple-A team than it does a major-league caliber lineup. Take Thursday’s lineup for example, which had Matt Reynolds, Rene Rivera, Kelly Johnson, James Loney and Alejandro de Aza in it. Not exactly names that inspire confidence.
And even the names that do: the Jay Bruces, the Travis d’Arnauds and Michael Confortos of the world; these sluggers are struggling.
The sophomore season of Conforto has been rather disappointing, with the 23-year-old being demoted back to the minors for a portion this season. d’Arnaud has been hurt for periods of the season, but has only hit .228 while healthy.
Bruce, the Mets major acquisition at the deadline, has hit .188 with two home runs in the eight games since coming to the Mets. Not exactly what they gave up Dilson Herrera for.
Junking the manager is certainly what most teams would do in this situation. Under conventional wisdom, Collins probably deserves to go. But firing him will not solve these problems.
An optimist would point to these injuries as hope for 2017, as the Mets will have these players hopefully healthy and ready for a full season. What if Cespedes decides to opt-out of his deal (which he more than likely will)? What if Neil Walker decides to leave?
Those are two big bats that disappear from the lineup, needing replacements. Bruce could conceivably being the “replacement” for Cespedes, but the Mets traded their Walker replacement to get him. And that’s even before they try to figure out how to configure their outfield, or deal with replacing Wright.
New York has a major roster problem. They have a lot of square pegs for round holes, and some holes with no pegs at all. This winter, they will need a major overhaul. Playing the injury card won’t work, as it still leaves them with gaps.
Fixing the roster is step one. Finding a manager who can use that roster properly should be step two. And that manager shouldn’t be Terry Collins. But firing him in 2016 won’t be enough to get the Mets to the postseason.