By Joe Rini
Considering they won seven of 11 games, the last homestand before the All-Star break was ultimately more draining than a boost for the Mets. Whether four days of rest recovers and recharges the Mets for the upcoming pennant race, is to be determined.
Hopes that swelled after sweeping the league leading Cubs, an ebullient debut by rookie Brandon Nimmo, and an inspiring Fourth of July comeback win were dashed by the season-ending/career-threatening injury to Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard’s “dead” arm, and three consecutive dismal losses to the Nationals that dropped the Mets to six games behind their division rivals.
Additionally, Daniel Murphy continued his “Oh, yeah! Take that!” revenge hitting rampage against his former team this past weekend. Whereas past generations of ill-fated Mets departures like Nolan Ryan, Amos Otis, and Scott Kazmir to the American League mostly irked the Mets via the out-of-town boxscores, Murphy has his former employer in a headlock and won’t let go.
The bat that powered the Mets to the World Series in 2015 is threatening to keep them out of the post-season in 2016 with Murphy batting .423 with seven home runs and 21 RBI against the Mets as he has sparked the Nationals to nine wins in 13 games against them. The former Mets second baseman is hitting a league leading .348 and his 17 home runs already exceeds his career high of 14.
Matt Harvey’s season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome combined with Syndergaard’s recent signs of fatigue and Zack Wheeler’s postponed return to the mound has chipped away at the team’s pitching depth. Saddled with an inconsistent offense (plus an injured Yoenis Cespedes) and with the pennant race just over the horizon past the looming July 31 trade deadline, GM Sandy Alderson will seek to fill several holes on the team but with fewer tradable assets than last season.
On a positive note, the Rockland County Times caught up with rookie Brandon Nimmo on July 2 prior to the Mets’ 4-3 victory over the Cubs and the day after he hit his first major league home run. Speaking of his first round-tripper (which his family from Wyoming was able to witness) and his first few days in the majors, the 23-year old smiled and said, “It was amazing…I didn’t feel the bases…I was floating… and I said, ‘Thank you, Lord.’” The experience of his first few days in the majors left Nimmo feeling “Thankfulness in my heart.”
When I asked the former first round draft pick about how he dealt with the various criticisms people may have expressed on the internet about his play during his five year minor league journey to the majors, Nimmo said he tried not to pay too much attention to such comments. “People have their opinions, I can’t control them…I am who I am,” he said as he strives to play as best as he can and also have fun doing it. Until the arrival of Jose Reyes, manager Terry Collins batted Nimmo in the leadoff spot several times and he was comfortable with it. “I’ll bat wherever TC thinks I can help the team.”
Fourteen games into his big league career, Nimmo is batting .250 and while the speculation is he’ll return to Triple-A Las Vegas after Michael Conforto regains his stroke in the Pacific Coast League, chances are Nimmo will be back in New York to stay before long.
When the All-Star break ends, the Mets will start a nine game road trip on Friday, July 15 in Philadelphia before returning to Citi Field on Monday, July 25 to play the Cardinals.