By Joe Rini
The Mets have had outstanding pitching and hitting performances in 2019…unfortunately, not often in the same game.
The once formidable looking offense that compensated for spotty pitching performances in the early going of the season has been playing hard to get in the last two weeks after playing the over-eager suitor during the first two dozen games of the season. The Amazins lost eight of eleven and played a dreary brand of baseball in barely scoring two runs a game amidst mounting strikeouts and dwindling batting averages before breaking out for seven runs in Tuesday’s 7-6 victory over the Padres in San Diego.
Pick your worn down sleeve cliche to describe it: water seeking its level…the law of averages…every team goes through slumps…or could it be another fatally flawed team 2019 edition?
Call it coincidence, but little has seemed to go right since Jacob Rhame buzzed Rhys Hoskins in the ninth inning of the 9-0 blowout of the Phillies at Citi Field on April 23. Perhaps it did not wake up the Phillies as people feared but the Mets bats subsequently went aslumber. Since their 13-10 record put them a game up in first place, the offense not named Jeff McNeil or Pete Alonso shriveled and the Mets record fell to 17-19.
The heart of the lineup has hardly caused palpitations in the opposition lately; for instance, Michael Conforto and Wilson Ramos have seen their .300 plus averages drop to .254 and .227, respectively. Brandon Nimmo’s hitless streak of zero for late April and early May (aka 28 at bats) dropped his average below the proverbial interstate to .196 while Todd Frazier has struggled to a .146 average since his return from the IL.
With a .262 batting average entering play on May 8, Robinson Cano has not performed as expected. Whether the cause of his slump goes to the cold weather (optimistically, it will get warmer), adjusting to a new league (optimistically, he’ll adjust in time), a couple of unfortunate hit by pitches on the hand (optimistically, he’ll heal) or his age (uh oh, he’s 36 and not getting younger), Mets need Cano to perform close to his career slash line of .304/.354/.492.
Acquiring Cano at age 36 with five years left on his contract, the Mets were hoping he had at least two or three solid seasons remaining before age slowed him down. If Father Time is already creeping on Cano, the next five years will seem like a century to the people writing the payroll checks. Perhaps his 4 for 5 performance against the Padres on Tuesday is a good omen for Cano and the Mets.
On the positive side, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have pitched better recently. Syndergaard became the first Mets pitcher to homer for his team’s lone run while pitching a complete game 1-0 shutout over the Reds on May 2 at Citi Field. deGrom has gone seven innings in each of his last two starts, allowing only two runs, yet only had a loss and a no-decision to show for it because the Mets were shutout each game.
On a more serious note, the trials and travails of the 2019 Mets were put in proper perspective with the health news surrounding Mets icons Ron Darling and Ed Kranepool. Darling, who underwent surgery to remove a mass on his chest, announced on May 6 that he’s been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The 58 year-old former pitcher said in a statement that his doctors “are optimistic that the cancer is treatable” and he hoped to return to the Mets broadcast booth in the next month or so.
One day after Darling’s announcement, the 74 year-old Kranepool underwent his long awaited kidney transplant surgery. It’s hoped “Steady Eddie” will be able to join his former teammates when the 1969 Mets are honored at Citi Field in late June. Best wishes for a full and speedy to Ron and Ed.