BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
The Mets continue to roll by winning five in a row after a 10-0 victory over the Washington Nationals Tuesday night at Citi Field. They have a 10.5-game lead (you read that correctly) for first place over the underachieving Atlanta Braves. Right now, there’s no reason to be concerned about anything. There are several things to take away from this 34-17 start.
When Sandy Alderson received the keys to the kingdom by the Wilpons and Major League Baseball to clean up the Mets mess, he never thought managers mattered. He tried to hire Bob Melvin as the manager in the sense he would follow orders, but he was overruled by the Wilpons to hire Terry Collins as the manager. When Mets owner Steve Cohen purchased the team, his first move was to hire Alderson to oversee the baseball operations. Rather than hire a manager that knew what he was doing, Alderson decided to retain Luis Rojas because he would follow orders dictated by him to play certain players. Alderson never thought managers mattered much, which is why he decided to keep Rojas. It turned out to be an utter failure. Rojas lost control of his players, and the Mets fell apart altogether last season to finish 77-85. Not surprisingly, Rojas’s contract was not renewed.
The Wilpons expressed zero interest in paying up for a manager. Like Alderson, they wanted to hire a manager that they can control.
Cohen made it a point to hire a manager that knew what he was doing in the dugout. He zeroed in on Buck Showalter, and he hired him with a three-year, $11.25 million deal. It’s an investment that paid off. No one could be surprised by Showalter’s success with the Mets based on his work as a manager for the Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles.
Showalter’s attention to detail as a manager serves as his strength. It shows with the way the Mets are executing on defense and offense. They play small ball to go with the long ball. They never get outplayed or outworked. He commands respect, and it shows by how prepared the players are.
There’s something to be said about managers matter. Fans and sabermetric geeks forgot about it. Managers know how to get the most out of the players. They know how to lead. In a place like New York, a manager is so important when it comes to dealing with the media, handling crises and extinguishing controversy at first sight. Showalter checks all those boxes.
Despite losing guys such as Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Tylor Megill, Sean Reid-Foley, James McCann and others, all they do is win. That’s a credit to the Mets manager for not allowing his guys to wallow in self-pity. He has them believing and winning. He knows how to use his roster and put them in a position to succeed. He has them playing at a high level. He has elevated the Mets. He is showing why managing is important in baseball. Maybe this should be something sabermetric general managers should keep in mind.
Mets general manager Billy Eppler deserves credit for building this team.
Yes, Buck Showalter is involved with building this roster, but Eppler has to identify guys that he knows he can win with, too and he has to execute deals. So far, Eppler has had the midas touch. He signed Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte and Mark Canha, and they all contributed to the team’s success by getting timely hits and grinding it out every game. He acquired Chris Bassitt to form a trio with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer that can win games. He got it right trading Miguel Castro for Joely Rodriguez. There was a reason why he was highly thought of by Showalter, and there was a reason why he was highly acclaimed when he worked with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. He seems to have a great eye for players, and you can see his imprint on the team’s success.
With almost everyone not wanting the Mets general manager vacancy, they found a guy who wanted the job, and they are thankful they got the right guy.
Pete Alonso is a MVP candidate.
When a team has the type of record the Mets have, there’s going to be a MVP candidate on that team. That would be Alonso, who is already hearing MVP chants at Citi Field. I don’t know if he is the MVP yet. It’s hard to call anyone “MVP!” in May. You don’t get that feel until August.
But Alonso is going to be a candidate. He has hit 13 home runs and drove in 47 runs, good enough to lead the National League in RBIs. He drove in 30 runs in May, a team record.
Here’s what the Mets should like about him: Not only is he hitting home runs, but he is using the field to get base hits. It’s the type of impact Mets hitting coach Eric Chavez has had on him.
Accept Edwin DIaz is going to blow saves.
Let’s get this out of the way now. It seems like everytime he is out there to close, there’s a referendum on him. Mets fans clearly expect him to fall apart like Armando Benitez when he closes. They are still scarred from his seven blown saves in his first season with the Mets.
Mets fans want their closers to be like Mariano Rivera, but the problem is there is only one Rivera. Most closers are going to blown saves during the course of the season. It’s just the way it is.
Judge Diaz for what he does in the postseason. If he bombs then, you can get on him all you want. But to go after him now is just ridiculous.
Where the Mets would be without Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco?
No one expected much from either or both of them because they have a history of getting hurt. They could get hurt later in the season. But right now, they have been a rock in the starting rotation. They kept the Mets afloat by providing quality starts despite Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tylor Megill being on the injured list. The back end of the rotation is always important to sustain excellence, but in the Mets’ case, it’s been important to keep the season from falling apart.
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