The Mets hit the .500 mark on Thursday and manager Terry Collins hit them, laying into his team for what he perceived to be a lack of passion and professionalism. "Starting tomorrow, we're going to get after it here," he promised. "And those that don't want to get after it, I'll find somebody else who does. Because in Las Vegas there is a whole clubhouse filled with guys that want to sit in this room. And I'll find them."
He won't have to look too hard. Players presently at Las Vegas include Eric Campbell, 29; Johnny Monell, 30; and Roger Bernadina, 32, all no doubt eager for another shot at the majors, not to mention Brandon Nimmo, sent down about two minutes ago, Gavin Cecchini, an actual 22-year-old shortstop prospect who the Mets have shied away from trying despite the fact that (a) he is hitting .317/.387/.444 and (b) Asdrubal Cabrera is on the disabled list because (c) throwing problems have caused him to make 31 errors in 85 games. Possibly Collins may be entertaining a Kevin Plawecki comeback. A trumpet blares: Enter THE CAVALRY, stage right.
Conversely, players not presently at Las Vegas but depressingly in New York include proto-journeyman Matt Reynolds, who has started all but one game at shortstop since Cabrera went down, and T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly, both born in the waning days of the Reagan administration. There are also push-your-luck veterans like Alejandro De Aza, James Loney, Kelly Johnson, and, yes, Jay Bruce hanging about. Loney and Johnson have given the Mets more than they could have reasonably expected, while Bruce was always more of a flier than he looked, a player with a long history of platoon limitations (.228/.294/.427 career against left-handers) and overreliance on Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.
You can't very well fault any of them, so who is Collins mad at? We know it isn't Neil Walker, because the manager singled him out for praise. Is it Michael Conforto again? Noah Syndergaard for a run of so-so (3.87 ERA his last six times out) appearances? Wilmer Flores for making only three starts in the last seven games? Damn it, Wilmer, can you not even sit right?
Yes, the Mets are fading, with an overall record of 42-50 since the end of April, a 7-13 record in their last 20 games, and a 10.5-game deficit in the National League East. Incredibly, the Mets have not won consecutive games since July 6-7. In the 29 game since then they've allowed 3.9 runs a game (still good!) and scored 3.0 (seek medical help immediately). If they can jump-start the offense via Collins' inspirational tantrum or any other method, the wild card is still attainable—the Miami Marlins swim a mere three games ahead and the two teams will meet seven times more this season.
Before Collins bursts a blood vessel, though, it's worth remembering just what saved the Mets a year ago. It wasn't anything he did. On July 31, 2015, the Mets were just 53-50, but:
- Conforto, who had come up on July 24, spent the rest of the season hitting exceedingly well.
- Yoenis Cespedes was obtained on July 31 and hit like Superman on a cocaine binge.
- That same day, Travis d'Arnaud came off the DL after missing most of the season and slugged .464 the rest of the way.
- David Wright returned after 115 games on the shelf in late August and hit well.
- Steven Matz was added to the rotation and post a 2.86 ERA in four starts.
Thus, the Mets played at a 102-win pace from August 1 to the end of the season, sailed past the floundering Nationals, and eventually made the World Series. That tremendous streak of good luck was likely a one-time offer by the gods, with no allowance for a repeat due this year's sheer number of injuries and disappointing performances. The cavalry really did come—last year—and all the yelling in the world won't bring them back for an encore.