By Joe Rini
Billy Eppler built the 2022 New York Mets with help from his predecessors. It isn’t a criticism because no general managerial regime is a total success or failure. Knowing who to keep is as important as who to add and subtract.
President John F. Kennedy was not speaking about baseball when he said, “Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.” However, the first half of that quote applies to the 2022 Mets. While the hiring of five general managers between 2018 and 2021 characterized franchise instability and futility, Eppler benefits from selected contributions by the four prior GMs.
GM Carousel Spins Between 2018 and 2021
The carousel of GMs began when Sandy Alderson took a medical leave of absence in June 2018 to be treated for cancer. Since the latter years of Alderson’s tenure coincided with a fall in the team’s fortunes, the Mets named sports agent Brodie Van Wagenen as the new GM in November 2018. After new owner Steve Cohen hired Alderson to be the team’s President in 2020, Van Wagenen returned to the agent’s side of the negotiating table.
Alderson hired Jared Porter as GM in December 2020. Unfortunately, the short-lived reign of Porter ended in January 2021 after the publication of prior sexual harassment by Porter. His replacement, Zack Scott didn’t fare much better. A DWI arrest in September 2021 caused Scott to be placed on administrative leave and his separation from the Mets. In fairness to Scott, he was ultimately acquitted of these charges. Getting a second chance to hire a GM, Alderson hired Billy Eppler in November 2021.
Eppler Built the 2022 Mets With Help
Serving as GM from winter 2010 to mid-2018, Alderson’s imprint on the current roster is substantial. Key draft picks in this era fuel the Mets’ success in 2022. For example, Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso were first-round picks in 2011 and 2016, respectively. However, more significantly, the 2022 Mets are collecting dividends from lower-round picks under Alderson. For example, such later-round picks include Luis Guillorme, Jeff McNeil, Tomas Nido, and Seth Lugo.
Closer Edwin Diaz was the signature acquisition during Van Wagenen’s tenure. Struggling initially in New York, Diaz has returned to elite closer status in 2022. Had Diaz performed as well in 2019 as he has in 2022, perhaps Van Wagenen might still be GM.
Like Diaz, the performance of players acquired by Porter and Scott improved after their departures. Porter acquired Carlos Carrasco in the Francisco Lindor trade and Scott signed Taijuan Walker in March 2021. While both pitchers battled in 2021, Carrasco and Walker now anchor two spots in the starting rotation.
Eppler Makes an Early Impact
illy Eppler has made a big impact in a short time. Most of his additions have delivered for the Mets. For example, anchoring the corner outfield positions, Mark Canha and Starling Marte play solidly on offense and defense. Hitting .313 with two out and RISP, Canha’s batting average has been well above his .249 career average. Marte effortlessly shifted to rightfield from centerfield and adds speed to the lineup, Max Scherzer anchored the staff with five wins in six decisions before an oblique sidelined him in May; his return from IL could be next week. Spring training acquisitions of pitchers Adam Ottavino and Joely Rodriguez bolster the bullpen while Chris Bassitt helped steady the rotation. Additionally, releasing Robinson Cano created playing time for Guillorme.
However, Eppler’s most impactful acquisition isn’t player related. It was the signing of Buck Showalter and his staff to guide the 2022 Mets. The experienced Showalter walked into the locker room with gravitas and a record of success.
Eppler Built 2022 Mets but More to Be Done
While Eppler may benefit from some moves by his predecessors, 2022 is on his shoulders. He’ll need to bolster the bullpen and add a bat even after Jacob deGrom and Scherzer return. While “success may have many fathers but failure is an orphan” in geopolitics, failure to succeed in the postseason will be Eppler’s baby.