This time last year, the Mets didn’t really have high expectations heading into spring training. They were still “just another year away”.
And for the first half of the season, it appeared that the Mets were still a few players short.
While still remaining in striking distance of the Washington Nationals, the young, powerful starting rotation deserved all the credit for simply keeping the Mets in ballgames.
John Mayberry Jr. was starting to hit cleanup on a consistent basis, and still, the Mets were hanging around.
During the first few months of the season, Noah Syndergaard was getting acclimated to the big leagues, and starting to make his name known amongst hitters in the National League. Shortly after, Steven Matz got the call-up and had a memorable first start against the Cincinnati Reds, which included highlights from Matz, not only on the mound but at the plate.
Fast forward to late July.
In a game against the San Diego Padres, it appeared middle infielder Wilmer Flores was on his way out, with the twitter world and multiple reports surfacing of a trade which would have sent Flores and Zack Wheeler to Milwaukee in exchange for Carlos Gomez. Then there was the Flores crying saga.
In the meantime, the trading deadline passed.
And after the Gomez deal fell through, the Mets were able to acquire Yoenis Cespedes in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. Well, we all know how that played out. Cespedes went on a historic run at the plate, taking over games by himself, propelling the Mets atop the NL East, where they would stay for the rest of the season. He quickly became a hero in Flushing.
Now here’s my thing: The Mets made it to the world series last year. They led for all but 13 innings of the series against Kansas City, and in a way, the Mets and their fans feel like they were the better team. It was extremely disappointing, but the Royals showed their experience, and ultimately, they deserved to win. The Mets made way too many mistakes, and in the World Series, they will severely cost you; and it did.
There was kind of a state of depression heading into the offseason. With the front office saying on multiple occasions that they will not give Cespedes the deal he wants, many Mets fans, including myself, didn’t have much hope for a Cespedes return.
When it seemed like being a Mets fan couldn’t get any harder, it was announced that Cespedes had a big offer on the table from NL East foe, the Washington Nationals. It appeared at first, that he would take it. Then a couple days passed and it seemed that there was a holdup with the deal.
That holdup was Cespedes’ desire to return to the Big Apple. Mets fans were starting to feel optimistic. When it was finally reported that the Mets and Cespedes agreed to a deal, Mets twitter literally exploded. I’m curious to how many twitter mentions Yoenis had, because everywhere you looked, somebody was talking about him. The resigning of Cespedes gave Mets fans a ton of hope heading into spring training.
Now there are expectations.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s World Series or bust. Is that fair? Probably not. It’s very difficult for any team to win the pennant in back to back years, and watching what the Royals did gives us hope. However, that’s not going to happen every single year and there are some very good teams in the National League. There’s three teams in the NL Central that some may argue are still better than the Mets. Do I feel that way? Absolutely not, but the Cubs are going to be good. They are in the same situation as the Mets. After signing Zobrist, the Cubs, a young, up and coming team, will be a tough out in the NL this year.
As far as the Mets, now there’s pressure. Last year, if things weren’t going well, nobody would get too upset because there weren’t high expectations.
This season, with a pitching rotation that some call a dynasty, there’s added pressure.
Trophies aren’t given out for having a great starting rotation. And trophies also aren’t given out for simply signing good players. We’ve seen teams in a lot of different professional sports assemble, “an all-star,” or as the Eagles called themselves, “a dream team.” In many cases, it’s completely failed.
Now the Mets are different because a lot of their players are home-grown, but the added pressure on such young players can be a lot to handle. I refuse to believe that Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler (when he returns) will all be “lights out.”
You know how rare that is? I’m not trying to be a debbie downer, I’m just trying to be realistic. One of them, if not a couple, are bound to go through rough stretches, that’s baseball.
However, playing in the World Series and pitching in stressful, high-pressure games to get there, will play a factor. There’s a reason why so many baseball folk and analysts stress experience. It matters. And the Mets have experience. This team will have a few rough patches, everyone does. But at the end of the day, the Mets are in good shape. They’re young, confident and talented.
Can they perform with high expectations? I think so. But only time will tell the real answer to that question.