By Joe Rini
If the 2018 Mets season was a sandwich, it would be the infamous “wish” sandwich famously sung by Dan Aykroyd’s alter-ego, Elwood Blues, in the song, “Rubber Biscuit.” The sandwich is two slices of bread that leaves you wishing for meat just as this season left fans wishing for a few more wins.
How do you explain a season where the Mets played a combined 35-19 during the first and last months of the season yet somehow finished in fourth place at 77-85 and 13 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves? Giddy dreams of October baseball flourished during April’s 17-9 start while a surprising 18-10 September gave fans reason to be hopeful for 2019.
Unfortunately the months in the middle weren’t so kind. As spring turned to summer, injuries mounted, the bullpen gave up too many runs and the offense scored too few as May and June’s swoon of 15-39 had fans longing for football before the Fourth of July fireworks…well, at least until the Jets and Giants actually started playing real games.
Yet, despite the team’s disappointing finish, three players in particular gave fans reasons to remember 2018.
Recalling the glory days of Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, Mets ace Jacob deGrom was Cy Young Award worthy on the hill every fifth game. Because of a lack of run support, deGrom was seemingly pressurized with each pitch to keep putting zeroes on the scoreboard. His barely visible 1.70 ERA attests to the zeroes deGrom filled the scoreboard with yet the Mets inexplicably managed to lose 18 of his 32 starts.
If deGrom gave fans reason to enjoy 2018, Mets rookie Jeff McNeil provided hope for 2019 and beyond. An unheralded former 13th round draft pick, McNeil took over at second base after Asdrubal Cabrera departed for the City of Brotherly Love Phillies at the trade deadline and delivered. Choking up on the bat and spraying the balls to all fields, the 26-year old became a fan favorite with his .329 batting average and steady play at second, giving fans reason to hope the Mets had solidified the infield for years to come with McNeil at second and Amed Rosario at shortstop.
If Jeff McNeil gave fans reason to look forward to the future, the Mets and their fans took a look back to say thank you and good-bye to their captain, David Wright, on the final weekend of the season. A series of debilitating injuries had kept Wright off the field since May 2016 and had limited him to a mere 75 games in the last four seasons. In the penultimate game of the season (a 1-0 Mets victory over the Marlins in 13 innings), Wright walked and popped out in two plate appearances before manager Mickey Callaway removed Wright during infield warm-ups before the top of the fifth inning amidst cheers (and some tears) from the sell-out crowd of 43,928 at Citi Field.
As the offseason beckons, the front office will need to bolster the roster for 2019…of course, who will make those decisions is presently unknown because ownership needs to replace Sandy Alderson in the General Manager’s role. Whether the Mets go with a GM who favors analytics over traditional scouting and player development, among the priorities facing the new GM will be finding a closer for the bullpen, a right-handed bat to alleviate the absence of Yoenis Cespedes, and deciding whether to keep Callaway as manager.
So another Mets season is in the books. As always, win or lose, it’s been my privilege to cover the Mets and write about them for you. Thank you for reading and pitchers and catchers report in only 4 ½ months.