The Mets are not a 'train wreck,' Bob Klapisch, though you make several excellent points about why this season may be a constant struggle. Sandy Alderson's current roster still has World Series upside. The team's potential has not changed in the three weeks since leaving Spring Training.
"It's easy to push the panic button, it's easy to say, 'Oh, sh!t,' but we are too good for that," Jay Bruce said Sunday, according to the NY Post. "We are a legitimate World Series contender, I believe, and I wouldn't just say that. This is a team that is stacked. We just have to be healthy and play well."
I agree. That said, I fear Alderson and Collins are still making decisions like they did a few years when rebuilding, as opposed to reverse engineering every choice based on winning a Championship.
For instance, as the NY Post's Kevin Kernan detailed during Monday's MetsBlog Q&ACast, Alderson knowingly entered this season with spots on his roster that were ripe for trouble and he seemingly sided with hope and crossed fingers instead of known talent...
"This team is run from the front office, it's a front-office based team," Kernan told me. "And, I think one of the problems the Mets have had through the years is self evaluation."
I hear Kernan's comment about self awareness to mean the Mets don't always operate in the best interest of their current reality, because they may not know or believe in that reality.
For instance, it's OK to delay a top prospect's free-agent status when you'll finish below .500 with or without him. I get it. But, I disagree doing that now, in a season when their self-proclaimed goal is to win a World Series with a pitching staff that is amazingly talented and finally healthy as a group. This is it. If now is not the time to go for it, what was all that rebuilding for?
Reyes (7) celebrates his solo home run against the Minnesota Twins with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (13) during the third inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Similarly, for the second-straight season, Asdrubal Cabrera is being forced to play the infield's most difficult position, while fighting through a myriad of nagging injuries every day. He was asked to do the same last season, and he eventually broke down and ended up on the DL.
In addition to having to handle a gimpy Cabrera, Collins is missing Wilmer Flores (who is out with a knee infection) and 1B Lucas Duda (who is out with a hyperextended elbow). As a result, he's beating Jose Reyes and his .104 average in to the lineup every day, experimenting in real games with Jay Bruce at first base and occasionally starting T.J. Rivera at the hot corner.
This approach is fine when expectations are in the toilet. But, when aiming to be the last team standing, Alderson and Collins need to be more aggressive and proactive in their problem solving.
The Mets are the only team in baseball to consistently play shorthanded, according to a quick survey on baseball insiders. It's also worth noting that none of my contacts could rationalize why Alderson repeatedly avoids using the disabled list when he's the man that started the initial conversation that eventually led to MLB instituting a 10-day disabled list.
Again, if you want to play short in a season when .500 is the best case scenario because you'd rather not burn a prospect's year of eligibility at the expense of a meaningless win in April, fine. I agree. But, when you tell anyone that will listen that your team is ready to win, plans to win and has a small window to win because the clock is ticking on your pitching staff, make a move.
In other words, bring up 21-year-old Amed Rosario, who ESPN.com's Keith Law recently said is the best prospect in all of baseball.
With Rosario at shortstop, where he's talented enough to win a Gold Glove as a rookie, Cabrera can slide over to the less physically-demanding third base, which would put Reyes on the bench where Collins can 'get him going' by picking and choosing the right spot to play him.
"I think it's starting to confirm what we've all believed, is that they're top-level prospects," Alderson said last week, according to MLB.com, when asked about hot starts in Las Vegas by Rosario and fellow prospect Dominic Smith. "They've got a good future with the Mets."
Sandy, you're coming off back-to-back postseasons and currently have an elite closer, left fielder, an outstanding young hitter in Michael Conforto and one of the best starting rotations in baseball. I hate to break it to you, but the future is now...
Aside from potentially making Rosario eligible for salary arbitration a year early, what's the worst that could happen to him and the Mets by bringing him up now? I mean, even if he doesn't hit a lick, which is hard to imagine happening, he's still going to be the best defensive infielder on the team (and one of the best defensive shortstops in the league), especially since he'll be flanked by Cabrera and Neil Walker, who are experienced, super nice, incredibly smart and love working with young players.
Don't sweat it, Rosario will be fine, not surprised and 100 percent ready...
The point is, I'm tired of seeing the Mets play it safe in these situations.
I love that Alderson has traded prospects to acquire hitting the last two summers. That's great. But, when it comes to the day-to-day management of the roster, he seems to still be making decisions like a GM rebuilding a franchise that has its eye mostly on tomorrow and not today.
If playing 10 days without Cespedes means he'll be healthy and win an MVP because he's crushing the ball every day after that, put him on the DL. If eating someone's salary will help acquire an experienced, high-leverage set up guy, do it. If promoting a top prospect to help restore order to the roster and starting lineup comes at the expense of an extra year of arbitration, so be it...
In short, I want the Mets to attack 2017 like a team that intends to win it all this season... not next season or when Matt Harvey leaves for the Bronx or West Coast... not in six years, when Rosario is a free agent... not some day when all five starting pitchers are in the rotation at the same time... but, right now, today. This season, every decision should be based on what will help the Mets win the most games possible in 2017, because the rest of the roster has earned the opportunity to go for it...
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. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...