The dog days of August have come ’round once again as in every baseball season since long before we were born. But with one glaring exception this time. The New York Mets are in a virtual tie for first place in the National League East. Now, before you reach for the eye drops or the bourbon, I’ll let that last sentence sink in for a moment. But it’s the God’s honest truth. And they may have one of the best young pitching staffs to come around in quite some time to carry them directly to MLB’s postseason.
GM Sandy Alderson has gotten a ton of grief from Mets fans during his tenure and no one has been less of a fan of his than I. The bullpen has been hit or miss. The offense virtually disappeared years ago along with longtime favorites such as Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. And during the first half the position players on this roster continued to offend anyone with a strong enough stomach to watch them try to hit, to no avail. All this was put on Alderson’s plate, and rightly so. Then something amazing happened.
It was as if the ghost of Branch Rickey overcame him and Alderson pulled off two of the best moves in recent Mets history. By acquiring IFs Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and OF Yoenis Cespedes along with RP Tyler Clippard, he gave this roster an instantaneous kick in the proverbial rear end. Cespedes is an extremely talented outfielder and a dangerous bat that will look good wreaking havoc in the center of the lineup. Both Uribe and Johnson can play multiple positions in the infield or outfield and are professional, major league hitters who bring a boatload of experience to Flushing. Mgr. Terry Collins now has the luxury of picking his lineup according to the match up, rather than by who is hitting over .200 on any given day.
Clippard certainly would come in handy once word came down that former closer Jenrry Mejia would be suspended 162 games due to PED use. Now the Mets have the eighth and ninth innings covered between Clippard and closer Jeurys Familia.
Which brings me to this starting rotation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is not one team in the National or American League that would want to face this collection of fireballers in the postseason or otherwise. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and, when healthy, Steven Matz make up a veritable hitter’s nightmare sequence. They have propelled this team into first place with their ability to lock down even the best lineups. The only limitation for this group may be the amount of innings they pitch the rest of the way. It will be interesting to see how Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen manage their young arms while fighting for a pennant.
The schedule works out well the rest of the way for the Mets as well, with their opposition during August and September being the easiest percentage-wise in the National League. Though I wouldn’t get ahead of myself because anything can happen, as the recent San Diego series illustrated. But if the offense can supply this pitching staff with 3+ runs a game, the sky’s the limit for this club. And all the Mets fans, including myself, will be happy to climb down off of Sandy Alderson’s back one by one.