Look over there! Is it a flyball? A home run? No, it’s… rain. Nine pitches into his start on Sunday, Marcus Stroman and the Mets retreated to their dugout while it poured across Citi Field. As the home team, it was at the Mets’ discretion to start the game with the projected forecast of inclement weather. The only thing more dependable than April showers are Mets L’s.
Even during this Pan’s Labyrinth, the Mets sparked hope in the fanbase. Steve Cohen’s $2.4 billion purchase of the team in October was the reset button the team needed. The Wilpon family, majority owners since 2002 whose finances were woven into Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, limited the team’s spending power as they desperately bandaged a leaking dam. Making matters worse was their crosstown rivals consistently outspent them and a postseason appearance seemed like a birthright for the Yankees.
Cohen cleared out lackluster GM Brodie Van Wagenen and brought back Sandy Alderson—architect of the most successful Mets roster in 2 decades—as team president. The Mets vaulted into the conversation for most attractive landing spot for free agents and trade targets and, most importantly, prevented this man from owning the team (good luck Minnesota). Cohen didn’t just buy the Mets, he provided a rudder and a clear direction to follow, which led them to the best shortstop in baseball.
Since entering the majors in 2015, no shortstop has a higher WAR (wins above replacement-level player) than Francisco Lindor, per FanGraphs. Not only did his wizardry with the bat and glove earn him two Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards from 2016-2019, it conjured a few Brinks trucks worth of cash. Lindor secured the bag with a 10-year, $341 million contract extension less than an hour before a self-imposed Opening Day deadline. Signed through his 38th birthday, he is the headliner of a lineup dripping with young talent like on-base machine Brandon Nimmo, Pete “Polar Bear” Alonso, Dom “Skrrt Skrrt” Smith, and… *checks notes* Michael Conforto…
The right fielder batted third in the lineup, directly after Lindor, for the first five games of the season to the tune of a 3-for-21 batting average, eight strikeouts and just one walk. In the bottom of the 9th inning of the Mets’ home opener on Thursday, the Marlins intentionally walked Lindor to face Conforto with the score tied, bases loaded and one out. He did what no one else in the 145 years of professional baseball—nay—in the history of competition dared to do: cheat. Batters are supposed to attempt to move out of the way of a pitch, and if they are hit by a pitch in the strike zone it is supposed to be called a strike. Yes, yes, well done, Marlins, well done, Marlin—HOWEVER.
Conforto’s chicken wing elbow could not save him from the Flushing Faithful’s boo birds after going 0-4 with three strikeouts against the Marlins on Saturday. Manager Luis Rojas dropped him to sixth in the batting order prior to Sunday’s scheduled game, but the team may need to burn some sage and incense across the batter’s box. Last season, the Mets ranked first in team batting average, but left the most runners on base, left the most runners in scoring position, grounded into the most double plays and finished third-worst in runs per game. No one is more familiar with a lack of run support than their ace.
Two-time Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom makes throwing 100 mph fastballs look as easy as playing catch with a child. He’s got Omni-Man’s right arm, but deGrom is a team player and has to rely on others to get a victory. The player with the most hits in his starts this season? Jacob deGrom. The player with the most strikeouts in the National League the last two years? Jacob deGrom. His velocity actually increased over the last five years, which he attributes to a more efficient delivery. After tossing six shoutout innings with seven strikeouts against the Phillies to start the Mets’ season, their bullpen gave up five runs in the eighth. He outdid himself in his next outing Saturday versus the Marlins, pitching eighth innings giving up just one run, five hits and tied a career-high 14 strikeouts. In a loss.
The extra mustard deGrom added brought smiles to Mets fans, but the team’s penchant for folding at the end leaves a pit in the stomach. The Mets are a soft pretzel telling everyone they’re a Shackburger. Ramadan Mubarak.