Noah Syndergaard was put on the 10-day disabled list over the weekend with hand, foot, and mouth disease. Please, hold the wisecracks. I’ve had it before. It’s completely miserable. Blisters, fevers, scars … it’s a mess. Please, send your thoughts to him.
My working theory is that any disease that requires an Oxford comma is a nasty disease that should be avoided, and I wish Syndergaard the best. It’s strange to see a Norse god felled by a toddler’s malady, but this is another reminder that we’re only here because the germs let us stay.
Still, the wisecracks are natural because you would shout “METS” if I asked, “Which team is likeliest to have a player contract hand, foot, and mouth disease?” It’s not just that, though. It’s that you’d shout “METS” after getting to “Which team is likeliest to have a player contract anything.” Mets players are more likely to contract a staph infection, dropsy, and the grippe. The whole team could contract malaria on a trip to Finland.
Because this is the Mets, there was something even more concerning than the freak illness. Yoenis Cespedes came back this week and mashed a dinger, and the happy vibes from that swing lasted at least several minutes. After the game, Cespedes described surgery to repair his heels as an if-not-when kind of necessity, which was a big surprise to everyone. Maybe it wasn’t a surprise to the Mets, but considering that they have a no-comment policy on the health of individual players, we’ll never know. Assuming the worst is a rational response.
Perhaps the most important news from the last week is that the selling has officially begun, with Jeurys Familia going to Oakland, turning a mostly unwatchable bullpen into a completely unwatchable bullpen. The selling has begun, and it might not stop until the biggest stars are gone.
It’s 2018, which seems like a fine time to remind every one that the Mets were in the 2015 World Series.
I know that three years is an eternity in baseball time — just look at who was in the 2014 ALCS — so this isn’t so surprising. Still, the vibe after they just missed on the championship was more “Their time will come” instead of “that was their one chance, and now they’re screwed,” but it turns out the latter was the more appropriate response.
My question is this: What should the Mets have done differently after the the 2015 World Series?
If you’re going to play this game, note that you can’t fire the owners. The Wilpons are even worse than the typical zillionaires that have a sports team to play with. They’re former zillionaires that have a sports team to play with, which means they’re doubling down on the emotional investment. They really do care about the Mets, possible to an irrational degree. Their passion and base-level knowledge makes them something like WFAN callers with unlimited power, which isn’t something that will help anyone sleep better at night.
If you’re going to play this game, also note that you can’t have the benefit of perfect hindsight. You can’t have the Mets sign Max Muncy or trade for Jesus Aguilar. Maybe — just maybe — you can complain about them not bringing Daniel Murphy back. Except if you look at how his season has gone this year, he would have been another bullet point in the LOL METS collection, and it’s not like he would have sent them to the World Series last year. Can you really fault a team for thinking the player with a sudden surge in his 30s wasn’t going to be a great long-term investment?
If you’re going to play this game, you have to note that any sort of retroactive plea for the Mets to trade prospects for immediate help looks extra silly right now, when they’re desperately trying to acquire prospects and reboot. This game does not allow you to choose Justin Verlander over Yu Darvish; you can’t rewrite history with the same precision that you would like. You just have to choose the option of “trade prospects for immediate help,” and it’s going to be a mixed bag. Brandon Nimmo for Sonny Gray probably wasn’t going to help.
If you’re going to play this game, you can’t suggest that the Mets sign only the free agents who work out. There’s no “get Nelson Cruz” available here, and not only because he would have been eaten by a sewer alligator if he were signed by the Mets. The option to spend more money is valid, but it comes with risks. This year’s team is almost proof that those risks aren’t worth it, as the Mets finally started spending, and almost all of the free agents signed this offseason have been somewhere between disastrous and miserable. You can pick on the Mets for this, but I thought Todd Frazier was a great value and good idea.
There are a lot of seemingly great values and good ideas in the free agent market over the past five years. There weren’t a ton of actual great values and good ideas. If the Mets spent more money on free agents, some of them would have been J.A. Happ and some of them would have been Ian Kennedy. You don’t get to choose. You only get to roll more dice.
If you’re going to play this game, you might get to a point where the Mets win nine more games in 2016 and don’t have to play in the NL Wild Card Game. You might get them to the World Series, and they might even win it. But that will take some Doctor Strange-like ability to sort through all of the different permutations. The real answer was that the Mets were always doomed, and not just because they were the Mets. Entropy will always win.
The Mets were doomed in the same way that other teams were doomed. It’s why the Royals and Orioles probably — probably — won’t meet in this year’s ALCS. It’s why the Giants couldn’t sustain anything after 2014, even with one of the biggest payrolls in baseball. It’s why the Pirates passed the Cardinals in the standings over the weekend, and it’s why the Pirates needed a nine-game winning streak to get over .500 in the first place. It’s why every team except for the Yankees needs to reset and reboot every so often. Even the Yankees thought they were doing that before being pleasantly surprised.
It doesn’t help that the Yankees share the same market, of course. It doesn’t help that the Mets had the illusion of longevity, with a gaggle of young All-Star starters just waiting to get better and better. But the more I look at the Mets, the more I look at a team that proves that baseball is a mean, ornery headmaster and not a team that proves that the Mets will be the LOL METS for the rest of eternity, just because that’s what we’re used to.
It’s strange how Cespedes has been handled. It’s quirky that Syndergaard has an illness that doesn’t usually afflict baseball players. There’s a lot of messiness in the Mets right now, even more than usual.
The more I stare at the chessboard, though, I’m not sure what would have saved them. A front office who could have seen the Muncys and Aguilars before everyone else, perhaps. A progressive front office that was exploring new ways to acquire talent. Which is to say, the Mets really needed to make a wholesale change immediately after winning a pennant. Which would have been the dumbest suggestion possible at the time.
The current Mets just might not be proof of anything, in other words. They don’t even have to be proof of the LOL METS. They just might be a baseball team, and those things are ripe for humiliation. Always have been. Always will.
It’s just a little more noticeable when the star pitcher gets a preschool disease and the star outfielder is playing the same game of telephone as previously injured players, that’s all.