As I wrote earlier Monday, it's getting close to decision time for Sandy Alderson.
For me, when I watch this team, I struggle to figure out what and who I'm watching. I imagine Alderson and his staff are trying to determine the same.
For instance, are the Mets the 11-1 team we adored during April or are they the 8-17 kiddie roller coaster we've been riding the last four weeks. Or, are they some place in between.
Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine used to always say that a team is never as good as they are during a winning streak and never as bad as they are during a losing streak. Instead, the truth is some place in the middle.
If that's the case, the Mets are set up to be an 83-win team, which is exactly what the experts and data predicted at the start of the season. Unfortunately, 83 wins is on pace to fall significantly short of both the division and Wild Card and likely means Callaway's last realistically meaningful game this season will be played in late August.
Naturally, another 11-1 winning streak will change the current path, but -- again -- do you, me or Alderson believe this roster -- as is -- can again pull off that type of success?
In looking at a variety of stats, it looks to me like the early-season Mets were not striking out much, they were making more contact, and getting better-than-average results on balls put in play. Inversely, during the last month, mostly everyone on the roster is striking out more, making less contact, and seeing fewer balls in play land for hits.
Is the difference that opposing pitchers identified a glitch in Callaway's offense? Is the coaching staff and talent not reacting and making the right adjustments? Is it just bad luck? Or, is it again injuries, drama, and bad juju?
The fact is, if Jason Vargas can be better than a pitcher with a 13.86 ERA, if Jay Bruce can get himself on pace to hit 25 home runs instead of the 13 he's on pace to hit now, if Amed Rosario can do slightly better than a .273 OBP, and if Devon Mesoraco can simply be what he was last season (let alone in 2014), Alderson will be in a much better position to accurately assess the rest of his roster. Unfortunately, the above players are what they have been and I have no idea how Alderson is going to put any sort of faith in any one decision about the balance of this season.
This is why Mickey Callaway will be such an important figure during the next few weeks. How he handles the roster and the choices he makes will go a long way in informing Alderson about the best way to land on the balance of the season...
"In times like this, when you're a leader, you have to lead even more," Callaway recently told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. "For whatever reason, I'm a guy that doesn't get too emotional one way or the other when things are going good or bad, because I realize that is what's going to happen. ... I didn't think we were going to come in here and go 140-22 or whatever, I knew we were going to have ups and downs," he continued. "When things are going like this, that's when you lean on that manifesto and re-read it and make sure that you're continuing to do all the things that you said you would do."
While I usually agree with this approach, my fear is that sticking with the status quo, being even keel and preaching balance will not produce wins and only run out the clock until the trade deadline.
In terms of the future of this organization, Callaway is the right person for this job. I think he's absolutely the right person to handle the ups and downs of an overall season. I don't have any evidence if he's the right person to be aggressive and work to save a season. Ordinarily, this level of proactivity isn't necessary until September. Hopefully, it will still be necessary this September. The thing is, it may also be necessary now.
Like it or not, if his team's results don't swing back soon, if they don't get back to the middle, if they keep on playing the way they've been playing, Alderson will find himself in June reviewing a team that is below .500 and six or seven games back of the division and Wild Card.
I realize there have been dozens of teams, including previous Mets teams, that have rallied from worse defects to still make the postseason. However, if Alderson is assessing a team below .500 in June, though they'd technically still be within striking distance of the postseason, it will mean that for 80 percent of the season they had been playing .360 baseball.
In 2015, Alderson was in a very similar spot. That team was 15-6, just like this year's team was 15-6. By late June, his 2015 roster was 36-37, which is the pace and trend being set by this year's squad.
In Spring Training one year, I asked Alderson what he's thinking when I see him alone, quiet, just leaning on a fence staring at his team working out, doing drills and causally preparing for a season.
"It's like watching the tide," he explained. "I'm not drawing specific conclusions. I'm just trying to get a feel for where a player or the team is at this moment and whether the tide is coming or going out."
In 2015, for whatever reason, he looked at the roster, looked at the division, looked at the landscape, looked at his resources and felt the tide was coming in. He traded several prospects, added Cespedes and a group of impactful talent, promoted a scorching Michael Conforto, and his team rewarded his read by going 54-35 and reaching the World Series. To say the tide was rolling in would be an understatement...
In 2017, the Mets were 10 games under .500 in late June. That season's tide was clearly going out, and so went Alderson's veterans, who were dealt to other teams for prospects.
In less than a month, he's going to need to make a similar decision. Right now, he can sit and watch like we do. But, eventually, he'll need to determine which direction this season's tide is going... and then act accordingly.
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!