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Judging by the following ultra-scientific formula …
x Twitter replies
+ Facebook shares
x talk-radio rants
x text threads with friends
– championships since 1986
/ annual angst (x annual optimism)
= Mets’ fans outlook
… we can state, with a fair degree of certainty, that Mets fans are decidedly split at how to grade the first hundred or so days of the Steve Cohen Era. We can cast 99 percent of that fervent orange-and-blue constituency into two categories:
I. Go, Steve, Go!
In which folks recognize the acquisition of Francisco Lindor as potentially the kind of bellwether that turns a franchise both around and upside-down, in which deciding on James McCann over J.T. Realmuto made logical sense from a baseball standpoint and long-range sense from a business perspective, in which getting shunned by Trevor Bauer may well be one of those sliding-glass moments you look back on and say, essentially, “Whew!” especially as the need to make more transactions becomes clearer.
II. Is This All There Is?
In which, despite Cohen’s warning that the Mets wouldn’t spend money “like drunken sailors,” there is grave disappointment in some precincts that they didn’t spend like drunken sailors, that their signature move was an old-fashioned trade and not the tossing of buckets of cash at the prime free agents — Realmuto, Bauer, George Springer — and that going for lesser lights like McCann and Albert Almora Jr. has a hauntingly familiar aroma to it. One faithful reader summed up their frustration with a new surname for the owner: Wilcohen.
And if you get the two sides in a room, this can make the Lincoln-Douglas debates seem like feel-good coffee klatches. And look, both sides are right and both sides are wrong, and the fun part of all of this is that in the middle of February you can argue both sides with equal ardor.
Have the Mets bought a championship for themselves? They have not, and for some that’s probably akin to wanting an Xbox under the Christmas tree and finding a used Atari instead. The Dodgers are still the clear favorites in the National League, and the Braves, until further notice, remain the team to beat in what promises to be a hyper-competitive NL East.
But are the Mets better than the team that walked off the field at Nationals Park last Sept. 27 as 15-5 losers, owners of a perfectly dreadful 26-34 mark that tied Washington for fourth place (which is a nice way of saying, tied them for last place) and that translated to roughly a 70-92 mark across a regular 162-game schedule?
There is no question they are better. There is no question they should battle the Braves (and maybe the Nats) for first place this year, should be very much in play for the postseason regardless of how many postseason teams there will be, should win upward of 90-92 games if things break properly, more like 95-96 if they break better than that.
Now, things have already started to break poorly with the news of Seth Lugo’s pending surgery to remove a “loose body” from his throwing elbow, which will probably keep him off the team until May 1 at the earliest. The bullpen, an annual adventure, should be able to withstand that loss with the additions of Trevor May and Aaron Loup, at least in the short term. The rotation, even without Bauer, with Jacob deGom as the anchor, should still be a reliable asset, especially if Noah Syndergaard returns this summer looking like his circa-2015-18 self.
And the lineup? Lindor ought to make this a more dynamic, more diverse offense. Michael Conforto may or may not be signed to an extension by opening day, and if he’s not he’s got a contract to play for every day. Pete Alonso, Dom Smith and Jeff McNeil will be in the lineup every day, DH or no, though the Mets’ defense would surely be helped if the NL goes that way. Will it be J.D. Davis at third? That’s a good option. Kris Bryant is a better one. Matt Chapman is the dream. And even Mets fans in Category II can still dream, right?
Mostly, there is depth here in a way there’s rarely been. There is talent. And there is a fresh start beckoning, for both the team and the men who run it. The Mets have better talent, and Luis Rojas ought to be a better manager in Year 2. Funny things happen in baseball. Nothing is guaranteed anywhere, even in Los Angeles, even in Atlanta.
So nothing is guaranteed in Queens, either, or in Port St. Lucie, for that matter. All you ever ask for is a shot. The Mets have a shot. The rest is what makes up the adventure. And the adventure is what makes it all fun. Or misery. We’ll see soon enough.
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