The 2015 season was a glorious one for being a Mets fan.
They went on a magical run to win the National League East, beat the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, then swept the Cubs to advance to the World Series––where the slipper stopped fitting in a five-game defeat against the Royals. Everything the Mets had slowly been building since 2010 finally came together and they were a fun team to watch.
The next year they lost to the Giants in a heartbreaking Wild Card Game and they haven’t seen the postseason since.
The Mets finished fourth in their division for the 2017 and 2018 season, making some believe their window had closed. Last year, the Mets denied those critics and put together a respectable 86-win season, only four games worse than 2015 and one game worse than 2016. After seeing that 2019 team play, one should feel confident that the Mets still have championship potential.
It won’t be easy, but I believe that if the Mets follow these five steps, they will be playing October baseball in 2020.
Step 1: Reliability on the back-end
The Mets have two pitchers on their roster who have led the MLB in saves in the last five years. This alone would make you think the Mets have a good bullpen, but unfortunately both of the aforementioned save leaders, Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz, were pedestrian at best in 2019.
The Mets bullpen is one of the main reasons they missed the playoffs last year and if they expect history not to repeat itself the bullpen has to be the first thing to change. Even though the bullpen as a whole was dreadful (with Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson being the only real exceptions), the back-end was the biggest problem––blowing 27 saves. If even half of those saves were converted, the Mets would have found themselves in the postseason.
Diaz is expected to start the season as the closer, but Familia is more than capable of doing the job if need be. The Mets need one of them to step up and be elite, and for the other to be reliable when needed.
Step 2: A Cespedes for the rest of us
Yoenis Cespedes was the catalyst for the 2015 pennant-winning squad and has been exciting to watch every time he’s been on the field since. The problem is he hasn’t been on the field much. He’s played in around half of the Mets games since 2015, only playing 38 in 2019.
Despite the lack of time on the field, he’s still had a significant impact slugging well over .500 and getting MVP votes in 2016.
He’s still recovering from an ankle injury––caused by a wild Boar incident of all things––and wasn’t expected to make 2020 Opening Day. But with the season being pushed back indefinitely, he may have a chance at an early-season return. One should be confident Cespedes will produce if he’s on the field, and if he can stay healthy for 80 percent of the Mets’ games this year, he should put the offense in a solid position to succeed.
Step 3: deGrom, Alonso, Mcneil … keep doing what you’re doing
Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso, and Jeff McNeil are what is working with the Mets right now. deGrom has won back-to-back National League Cy Youngs, Alonso is fresh off of a record-setting rookie campaign, and Jeff McNeil contended for a batting crown in only his second MLB season.
Obviously, it’s unrealistic to ask them to keep up that type of production but if they can even keep close to the pace they’ve been on, they’ll provide the Mets with the solid foundation they need.
Ideally, you’d like to see deGrom at least get votes for a third Cy Young, Alonso to keep his sophomore slump to a minimum and drop 35-plus bombs, and McNeil to bat at least .300.
Step 4: Career Revival for Wacha and Porcello
Both of the Mets’ newest starting pitchers have had periods of dominance in their careers. Rick Porcello was the 2016 American League Cy Young award winner and Michael Wacha a National League Championship Series MVP.
Despite their prior successes, both Porcello and Wacha have fallen on hard times, pitching to 5.52 and 4.76 ERAs respectively.
Their recent struggles are very convenient for the Mets, who were able to sign them both to relatively cheap deals. The 2015 Mets thrived on a depth of quality pitching, with all five starters turning in strong seasons.
This has not been the case as of late, with 2019 pretty much just being the “deGrom show.” To replicate the success of 2015, starting pitching depth is a necessity, but unfortunately for the Mets, following Noah Syndergaard’s season-ending injury, deGrom is the only starter from 2015 remaining. This puts extra importance on the performances of Wacha and Porcello––but thankfully a Cy Young caliber season isn’t what’s needed. If Wacha and Porcello can turn out a quality season with a sub-four ERA, it will be incredibly helpful for this Mets ball club and should provide the rotation depth necessary to win.
Step 5: You have to believe
Every Mets World Series run has involved a little bit of magic, whether it’s the black cat of 1969, the ball between Buckner’s legs in ’86, or the not-trade of Wilmer Flores that sparked a 31-11 run in 2015. What’s really going to determine the success of this team isn’t their skill, but their ability to create some magic this year. Will they have it? Only time will tell, but to quote the late great Tug McGraw: “Ya gotta believe.”