2018 New York Mets
2018 New York Mets / Franchise: New York Mets / BR Team Page
Managed by Mickey Callaway
History, Comments, Contributions
After a 2017 season during which everything that could possibly have gone wrong seemingly did, the 2018 New York Mets came into the year confident they would bounce back and compete for a postseason slot once again under new manager Mickey Callaway. A few commentators agreed, pointing out that their starting pitchers, the team's greatest strength, were healthy once again. The Mets initially proved them right with the best start in team history, winning 9 of their first 10 games, including a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals in the nation's capital. A couple of earlier editions of the team had started off 8-2, but none had won 9 of its first 10 games. They won again on April 11th, with a comeback 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins, but that day they placed C Travis d'Arnaud on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his elbow, something that was likely to cost him the remainder of the season. Things then got really serious when d'Arnaud's back-up, Kevin Plawecki, had to leave that day's game after being hit by a pitch in the 8th. Initially, the Mets downplayed the seriousness of the injury but reports soon emerged that he had a broken hand. That left the Mets' catching in the hands of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido - i.e. a veteran more suited to being a back-up and an unproven youngster - not an ideal situation for a team making a serious push for the postseason. But they continued to win, recording their 9th straight on April 13th, 6-5 over the Milwaukee Brewers, behind two homers from new 3B Todd Frazier, to improve to 11-1.
Something unprecedented happened during the early winning streak: for the first time since Steven Matz made his major league debut in June of 2015, the Mets' vaunted five-man starting rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Matz made consecutive starts. The five had never before all been healthy at the same time at any point in those three seasons. That did not last long, however, but not because of injuries, but rather because Harvey was struggling during his starts. On April 21st, the Mets announced that Harvey would move to the bullpen for the time being with Jason Vargas, signed as a free agent during the off-season, ready to come off the disabled list. After a few unconvincing performances as a reliever and some off-field issues (Harvey was seen partying in Los Angeles, CA on a day when he should have been traveling with the team to San Diego, CA), the Mets tried to send Harvey down to the minor leagues on May 4th, but when he refused to report, they had him designated for assignment, marking the end of a tumultuous era. On May 8th, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, a move that killed two birds with one stone as it got Harvey away from the Big Apple and netted the Mets a viable major league catcher in Devin Mesoraco. The following day, however, rookie manager Callaway was caught in an embarrassing mistake as the Mets batted out of order in the 1st inning of a game against the Reds. The mistake was costly as it negated a double by Asdrubal Cabrera and the Mets went on to lose, 2-1, in 10 innings. The local tabloids lost no time in making fun of the mistake, as once again the season seemed on the verge of falling into full-blown soap opera territory.
At the end of May, the Mets lost two more pitchers, as Syndergaard went on the DL on May 29th and Matz had to leave a start early because of a problem with a finger. On May 30th, manager Callaway said that the Mets "had hit rock bottom", after losing 7 of 9 games and being in danger of falling below .500 for the first time. To add to their woes, a fire broke out at Citi Field that day, near one of the entrances and while it was contained quickly, fans did not fail to point out it was a very appropriate metaphor for how the season was going lately. Another sign that everything was going pear-shaped was that on June 2nd, the Mets had to cancel the planned give-away of 15,000 Todd Frazier batting practice jerseys to fans as they discovered a quality-control issue at the last minute. The fans were instead issued vouchers to obtain the product at a later date. They then went on to lose the game, 7-1, to the Chicago Cubs in 14 innings in spite of their pitchers racking up 24 strikeouts, 2 shy of the all-time mark for an extra-inning game, as the team once again wasted an outstanding effort by deGrom who matched a career high with 13 Ks.
After suffering eight straight losses, the Mets gained a measure of solace by becoming the first team to blank the New York Yankees that season, ending the city series with a 2-0 win at home on June 10th. After the game, the front office decided to shake up the roster, releasing veteran 1B Adrian Gonzalez, who was not providing much punch from the middle of the line-up, and having catcher Lobaton designated for assignment. Dominic Smith was called up to take over the starting first base job. However, the month of June was the worst in team history as they went just 5-21, lost 10 of their last 11 games, and by losing their last two games against the Miami Marlins, finished the month in last place in the NL East. The Mets never recovered, even if they did manage to finish ahead of the Marlins.
The main positive points of the season was the performance of two starting pitchers: deGrom won the Cy Young Award in spite of a superficially unimpressive 10-9 record, belying an ERA of 1.70 and 269 strikeouts in 217 innings; Syndergaard was also excellent, going 13-4, 3.03. Things were less rosy on the hitting front, although the Mets did receive a fine performance from rookie Jeff McNeil, who hit .329 in 63 games over the second half; OF Brandon Nimmo also emerged as someone to watch in the future, as he hit .263 with 17 homers and 47 RBIs, good for an OPS+ of 149. The Mets also received a great season from 1B Pete Alonso - but only in the minor leagues: fans were clamoring for his call-up in the last few weeks of the year after he had annihilated minor league pitching, but the front office did not budge. It was speculated that they wanted to delay his arbitration clock, as the Chicago Cubs had done a few years before with Kris Bryant, but then he would be in the starting lineup on Opening Day the next season, so it turned out to be a case of simply not giving the people what they want. After two straight disappointing seasons, important changes were on the way, the principal being the hiring of a new General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, who was not afraid to shake things up.
Awards and Honors
- Associated Press: "With rookie manager, Mets ready to roll out prized pitchers", USA Today Sports, March 22, 2018. 
- Anthony DiComo: "Mets hope healthy core brings '18 rebound", mlb.com, March 15, 2018. 
- Mike Lupica: "Mets' season already offers many plot changes", mlb.com, May 16, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Meet these Mets: Baseball's biggest surprise lurking in 2018", USA Today Sports, March 1, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "As Mets nosedive, GM Sandy Alderson says club will never go 'extremist' with rebuild", USA Today Sports, June 5, 2018. 
- Joe Posnanski: "Bucking trend, Mets get their Dream Rotation", mlb.com, March 21, 2018.