Yes, it was 40 years ago that the New York Mets went from 73 wins in 1968 to a World Championship and a 100-win season. Can history repeat itself?
Even with 10 players on the injured list — including Brandon Nimmo and Yoenis Cespedes — the Mets are knocking at the NL Wild Card door, a mere two games off the pace. That after a miserable month of June during which first-year manager Mickey Callaway was close to being shown the door. Injuries, inconsistent pitching, and an overall lackadaisical start made it look like another down and out season for fans at Citi Field.
Turning it around
The second half of the season has been a revelation for the Metropolitans. The team’s record is 27-10 for the second half of the season (so far) with an amazing 37-21 home record for the season. And it’s not a smoke and mirrors show. The team likely will end the season with five players hitting more than 20 homers led by rookie slugger Pete Alonso. Michael Conforto came back from a shoulder injury to slug 27 home runs while JD Davis, acquired from the Houston Astros in the offseason, has provided a spark in the field and at the plate.
No single player epitomizes the Mets’ turnaround more than second-year star Jeff McNeal. McNeal was a 12th-round pick in the 2013 draft from college baseball powerhouse Long Beach State. McNeal currently leads the batting title race, has an on-base percentage of .400, is in the top 10 in the NL in doubles, and is 10th in WAR (Wins Above Replacement). What McNeal provides is energy at the top of the lineup and, with his hustle, quickly has become a fan favorite.
An embarrassment of pitching riches
No other team in the NL — let alone all of baseball — can put an all-star pitcher on the mound for five consecutive days. The Mets, with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zach Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Marcus Stroman, not only have pitchers with electric stuff, but the weapons to be difficult to beat in a short series. A one-game Wild Card? Take your pick of former and future Cy Young award winners.
Much has been made of the Mets’ woes out of the bullpen. Edwin Diaz, who came over from the Mariners, isn’t close to matching his 2018 numbers, but he has 25 saves and has become the prize pupil of pitching coach (and former reliever) Phil Regan.
“This guy has saved 80 games in a year and a half,” Regan said in a recent interview. “A lot of guys don’t save 80 games in their life. It’s there. And we’ve just got to get it out of him.”
Beyond Diaz, the Mets have a formidable bullpen with Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, and Jeurys Familia.
The Mets’ powerful polar bear
Every team needs a superstar to be the center of attention, and Pete Alonso is that man. With 40 home runs and 97 RBIs, the former second-round pick from the University of Florida is a big man with a big swing and an even bigger personality. Just check out his performance at the 2019 home run derby.
A top contender for Rookie of the Year, Alonso is the perfect player for the New York market. Alonso plays with just the right amount of swagger to win over fans and the media without being considered obnoxious. With a WAR of 4.2, Alonso places 10th in the NL, but in that all-important category of team value, the hulking Floridian is near the top.
Why the World Series?
The Mets are two games off the pace in the Wild Card standings. The team’s remaining schedule features several of the teams they need to beat to make the postseason — Atlanta, Miami, and Philadelphia. Toss in a series against the Reds and Diamondbacks and the last month of the regular series is relatively weak.
All the Mets need to do is get to the Wild Card. No other team in the NL can match New York’s rotation starter for starter. A miracle season every 40 years? Why not?