Sunday, April 28, 2024

There's No Fast Forwarding Through The Fringes

My buddy Mark Rosenmen of Kiners Korner likes to say it all the time: "You can't binge watch a baseball season." Nowhere is that true more than 2024.

The 2024 Mets have lots of .500 energy. Considering how we were prepped for this season by the owner nad by the GM by saying that this was going to be a competitive yet reset year, having .500 energy isn't a bad thing. Hell, it's a great thing after starting the season 0-5 and getting no-hit by a Tigers misfit for 7 innings in Game 6. It's a great thing after losing Kodai Senga before the season, Tylor Megill to start the season, and Brooks Raley and Drew Smith after the bullpen had established themselves early in the season as  the statistical best in the league after 2-3 weeks.

But the team is still a roller coaster that can't be binge watched or figured out. 0-5 followed by 12-3 followed by 1-5 before Sunday's wild walk off win against the Cardinals, which ended in a Harrison Bader RBi single a strike away from losing, and Mark Vientos' walk off two run dinger to avoid a sweep by the previously struggling Cardinals. We as Met fans are going to have to ride this out and see where it goes instead of doing what we usually do and call for everyone to be fired or traded tomorrow. Most seasons, that works. We can save it for next year after we sign Juan Soto (yes, I'm trying to speak it into existence.)

This season? This is an 81-81 team that has a margin of error about three games each way. Three games the wrong way is a disappointment at 78-84, while three games the right way and you're looking at a possible playoff team with the expansion of Rob Manfred's revenue stream playoff teams to 12. With this roster not being built so top heavy in the rotation as in seasons past, it heightens the importance of the players on the fringes.

Harrison Bader watching the pitch he put into orbit against the Pirates on April 17th.

Look, we know that the Francisco Lindors and the Pete Alonsos have to perform.But having other stars like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander for 15 minutes meant that you could survive slumps by your offensive stars (which happens.) Not having them? Now you have to win every close game you're in ... certainly every extra inning home game you find yourself in. That means that the players on the fringes have to perform well, and that'll be the first mile marker that David Stearns will be judged on. The results so far has been as mixed as the W-L record.

Some play bigger roles than others. Luis Severino was a flier. But with Senga hurt, he's basically their ace now. He started out dicey but has an ERA under three. Harrison Bader was unimpressive during that five game losing streak to start the season, but since then has been an important player (and most importantly, healthy.) Sean Manaea has been hit around lately but has had his moments (and I think he'll be solid this season.) Jorge Lopez scared the hell out of me but props to him because his ERA is under two. Tyrone Taylor has been a revelation as the fourth outfielder. J.D. Martinez has started out well in a small sample size.

But there has been results the other way too. I don't know how a ground ball pitcher like Adrian Houser can leave so many pitches up like he's Pedro Martinez. Joey Wendle wasn't brought here for much, and has been short of even modest expectations. Not to mention the millions of relief pitchers the Mets have already employed. They survived two stops on the Michael Tonkin Eras tour. Yohan Ramirez was the focal point of a blood war, and now he's an Oriole and it isn't even May yet. We've said Hello, Goodbye to guys like Cole Sulser, Dedniel Nunez, Grant Hartwig and Tyler Jay. (Turn your head, don't look back.) Tomas Nido, Josh Walker and Sean Reid-Foley have had recurring roles like they're Jason Evers playing 8 different characters in Mannix. 

But they all have to be ready this season, along with guys like Jose Butto (who has surprised me this year) and Reed Garrett (who couldn't surprise me because I barely knew who he was even when they got him from the Orioles last season.) It's going to be those guys who are going to decide this season in the collective, even more so than the Alonsos, the Lindors, the Brandon Nimmos and the Jeff McNeils. Because they're going to perform to their baseball cards, more or less. What will the baseball cards of Bader, Vientos, Taylor, Severino, Lopez and Houser say when it's all said and done in a season where six games can be the difference between the third wild card spot and a melancholy Fan Appreciation Day?

You can't fast forward to the end.

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