The bad news is the Mets look like the same train wreck we witnessed during manager Mickey Callaway's first season in 2018. The good news is that, despite being 16-19, they're just 3.5 games back of the first-place Phillies, who are 19-15.
We also know from 2015 and 2016 that in, MLB success is often dictated not by how a team starts but by how they finish. In 2015 they began the year 13-3, dipped to 36-37 in late-June, but after several midseason additions and winning 62 percent of their final 60 games, they reached the playoffs and got to the World Series.
The same turnaround happened in 2016, but ended with a loss to the Giants in the Wild Card game. The point is that it's early, there are still 127 games to be played, all sorts of trades, injuries and luck will play out and, though it may seem hopeless, there are still plenty of chances for the Mets to turn things around and have a successful season.
It's not going to happen with hope and magic, though...
Like in 2015 and 2016, and unlike in 2017 and 2018, first-year GM Brodie Van Wagenen and his second-year manager, Callaway, will need to make significant changes to their thinking, execution and roster to reach their stated goal of getting to the postseason.
Here are three things they need to do to turn their ship around:
The coaching staff
The players believe in Van Wagenen and Callaway, at least based on conversations I had with guys during Spring Training, which was just six weeks ago. Callaway has also had just 35 games to see new hitting coach Chili Davis in action. He's also had just 35 games getting real advice from new bench coach Jim Riggleman, who everyone outside the organization assumes will be Callaway's replacement in the event he's fired.
More importantly, for as long as the game has existed, baseball teams find more success from a stable and predictable coaching staff than they do from any sort of midseason change. I realize there are exceptions to this rule, such as the 1999 Mets. However, baseball players are creatures of habit and despite what fans want to be believe -- statistically speaking -- managers have very little impact on wins and losses.
That said, there clearly needs to be a shift in how Van Wagenen, Callaway and their respective staffs are thinking and executing their strategy.
It's either that the research and information being provided by Van Wagenen and his staff is shoddy, the two staffs are not all on the same page or Callaway, pitching coach Dave Eiland, Riggleman and Davis are goofing up how to use and relay their decisions to their players.
I do not have the direct knowledge or education to make actionable suggestions on how this can be improved, mostly because we've been given just 35 games of data. However, it doesn't take an expert to see that everyone involved is making -- at best -- odd choices that are not going as expected. It's happening just as much with the roster as it is with the lineup and the handling of situations during the game.
I know from being a spectator that something has to be done. So, figure it out, guys, because you look like you're flipping coins out there and I know you are all way too smart for that.
Bring in outside help
Free-agent LHP Dallas Keuchel recently said he's anxious to sign a deal and pitch in 2019, but he has no intention of settling for the lowball offers in front of him. Keuchel's agent, Scott Boras, has advised him to take a deal and get on the field, the pitcher told Brown. However, he has told his agent that he does not want to compromise his principles and will instead continue looking for the best deal, even if it comes at the expense of remaining on the sidelines.
Free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel has not talked on record about his experience, but it's safe to assume -- since he's still available -- that he's operating under a similar set of goals.
While Kimbrel has reportedly lowered his asking price and remained in contact with the Mets and Brewers, he has yet to budge on wanting to be a team's closer. The Mets, who currently have Edwin Diaz pitching in the most prominent bullpen role, would presumably ask Kimbrel to accept whatever role he is given.
Meanwhile, the buzz among MLB insiders has long been that, if Keuchel and Kimbrel have not signed a deal before early May, they'll likely remain on the open market until after the MLB Draft in June, at which point their new team will not need to part with a compensatory draft pick.
In case you haven't noticed, it's currently early May and both men are still free agents.
The other thing to note is that, even if Keuchel and Kimbrel sign contracts today, they'll still need time to condition and prepare themselves to pitch in a big-league game. In other words, they'll want and likely be forced to -- at the very least -- run a quick version of Spring Training, meaning it'll be at least a few weeks before they're physically helping the team with whom they signed.
In terms of offense, once-power-hitting and still-clumsy-infielder Pedro Alvarez is the only impact hitter available on the market. The 32-year-old Alvarez, who is also represented by Boras, has not hit 20 home runs and played a full season since 2015.
The trade market reportedly only includes Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, Rangers starter Mike Minor, and multiple, veteran relievers from the Giants, who are rumored to be debating whether to deal Madison Bumgarner. That said, it's very uncommon for quality talent to be dealt prior to mid-June.
In other words, though it's fun to dream, I don't expect the Mets to add meaningful help from outside the organization soon.
Do what you said you'd do
In spring training, Van Wagenen and Callaway did a lot of talking about always having the best 25 people on their active, big-league roster.
I understand current injuries to Jed Lowrie, Steven Matz, Jeurys Familia, and Jason Vargas have forced Van Wagenen and Callaway to use less-talented, stop-gap talent. However, current backup catcher Tomas Nido, outfielder Keon Broxton, and infielders Luis Guillorme and Adeiny Hechavarría have hit a combined .159 with two extra base hits.
Similarly, the bullpen has been sporadic and a seemingly random carousel of arms, but that is typically the case for most teams early in the season.
It's also worth noting Brandon Nimmo is in the midst of a terrible slump and is batting .151 since the middle of April. Similarly, though Amed Rosario is batting .276/.313/.409 with two home runs, he has a negative WAR because of his poor fielding and striking out in 25 percent of his at-bats.
Meanwhile, 1B-LF Dominic Smith, who had been hitting .333 for the Mets through last week, has been sent to Triple-A Syracuse. Also in Triple-A, veteran OF Rajai Davis has a .356 OBP and 11 stolen bases and former big leaguer Paul Sewald has not allowed a run in seven of his nine relief appearances.
At the same time, in the big leagues, J.D. Davis, who showed power to start the season and can play left field, third and first base, has just 18 at-batsin 10 games since Todd Frazier was activated from the IL on April 22. Frazier, who is playing regularly over Davis, is batting .159/.178/.295 with two home runs, while Davis sits on the bench most days.
In other words, like they said they would do six weeks ago in Florida, Van Wagenen and Callaway might see more short-term success by using the best available and most productive talent on their 40-man roster, instead of turning to less-productive players because of buy contractual minutiae, experience, and large contracts.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!