By Joe Rini
With MLB commissioner Robert Manfred keen on speeding the pace of play from the current three hours plus per game, perhaps the Mets could be forgiven if they’ve thought about stopping games after seven innings, especially when ace Jacob deGrom hands the ball off to the bullpen.
Six times this season, Mickey Callaway has asked the bullpen to get six outs or fewer to secure a win for the Mets and deGrom. However, in four of the six games, rather than fanning batters, the late inning firemen have fanned the flames of frustration in failing to hold the lead for deGrom, most recently this past Memorial Day when the Braves defeated the Mets 4-3 in the opening game of a day-night doubleheader as Charlie Culberson hit a walk-off two run homer in the ninth inning off Seth Lugo in Atlanta.
Like the father of a newborn with a stained shirt, deGrom is wearing the hiccups of the bullpen on his won and loss record as his 4-0 record could easily be 8-0 to go along with a sharp 1.52 earned run average.
The Mets middling 26-26 record following their 11-1 burst out of the 2018 starting blocks combined with the rising fortunes of the Braves and Phillies has lead people to wonder if the Mets should deal deGrom for multiple prospects that can replenish a mostly barren farm system. Such a move would be jarring considering this would imply the Mets “window of opportunity” that began with the 2015 NL pennant and a 2016 wildcard berth after years of rebuilding would seemingly have closed quicker than Justify’s stretch run at the Kentucky Derby.
As many have noted, the contending team with the need and resources to acquire deGrom would be the New York Yankees though the probability of the crosstown rivals completing such a deal are about as likely as the Mets re-signing Matt Harvey to a Clayton Kershaw-like $200 million contract in the offseason.
Speaking of the Yankees, I asked manager Mickey Callaway prior to the Mets 5-1 defeat to the Marlins on May 22nd, to what extent, if any, the Mets felt any additional pressure or distractions considering their struggles coincided with a Yankee resurgence that included winning 17 of 18 games.
Callaway replied, “I haven’t felt any pressure…I try not to pay attention to what they are doing. When we go and play them, I’ll know exactly what kind of team they are…so that we can try to go out there and beat them.” Callaway added, “We just have to worry about the things we can control here.”
The challenge of playing well with significant players on the disabled list has become a steep obstacle for the Mets in recent days. In addition to playing without Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes for most of May and Juan Lagares being deemed out for the season, Wilmer Flores and AJ Ramos were added to the disabled list over the weekend. However, more significantly, the starting rotation was struck twice in one day as hours after Noah Syndergaard was placed on the 10 day DL with a strained ligament in his right index finger, Steven Matz left Tuesday’s game against the Braves after three innings with pain in his middle index finger.
To help bolster the injury-depleted outfield, the Mets signed veteran Jose Bautista to a one-year deal on May 22 after his release by the Braves. Meeting with the press to announce the move, GM Sandy Alderson said, “We had been looking at the possibility of a right-handed bat in the outfield that could spell our other outfielders and give us some offensive potential against a left-handed pitcher.” While Bautista is hardly the player who hit 54 home runs for the Blue Jays in 2010, the 37-year old has six hits in his first 15 at bats with the Mets.