By: Joe Messineo

Jumping on the Mets Bandwagon: A Practical Guide


So, you want to latch on to the suddenly crowded New York Mets bandwagon? Buckle up.

Being a fan of New York’s National League club should come with a warning label. No team more swiftly shifts from delight to disaster. “Tears, Fears, Cheers … It’s All Here!” would have been a weirdly appropriate billboard in Flushing this season — if only penny-pinching owner Fred Wilpon had been willing to foot the bill.

The Mets had enough — in prospects, at least — to make a significant trade as the non-waiver deadline neared. Shipping off two minor leaguers, New York acquired Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers, finally landing the big bat they’ve so desired. At the same time, General Manager Sandy Alderson likely avoided a village full of pitchfork-wielders and torch-bearers at his Citi Field office by sundown.

The Cespedes deal was just a single moment in what turned out to be a year’s worth of mood swings crammed into a five-day drama.

Here’s a brief recap, so you can drop knowledge on your friends without them suspecting you’re a bandwagoner:

Monday, July 27: Following the trade for veterans Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from Atlanta and the call-up of highly-touted outfielder Michael Conforto, New York bolsters its bullpen by getting A’s reliever Tyler Clippard.

Tuesday, July 28: The Clippard addition is validated after it is announced that reliever Jenrry Mejia has tested positive for the same steroid that got him an 80-game suspension at the start of the season. The result is a 162-game ban and a new low for baseball stupidity.

Wednesday, July 29: Wilmer Flores’ personal soap opera plays out in the public eye as the crying game that should have been avoided by a simple substitution adds to the club’s reputation for mismanagement. It turns out to be nothing worth sobbing over, as New York’s deal to acquire Carlos Gomez for Flores and Zack Wheeler is ultimately nixed.

Thursday, July 30: From tears to anger, closer Jeurys Familia blows his third save opportunity since the All-Star break as the San Diego Padres completes a six-run comeback when Justin Upton goes deep with two outs and two on in the top of the ninth — a rally that comes after two ninth-inning rain delays.

Friday, July 31: A happy ending for all. The deal for Cespedes is completed (without relinquishing Wheeler) and Flores hits a walk-off home run in the twelfth inning to give the Mets a critical series-opening victory over the Washington Nationals.

As wild as this recent stretch was, the first half of New York’s season saw its own share of twists and turns.

There was the muscle tear in Wheeler’s pitching elbow during spring training that necessitated Tommy John surgery. Then came the 11-game winning streak in April that saw the Mets off to an 13–3 start, which was canceled out by a stretch in which they went 23–34 to fall one game below .500 on June 24. There have been prolonged injuries — to David Wright, Jerry Blevins, Daniel Murphy, Michael Cuddyer, and Travis d’Arnaud — leading to a dreadful offense that hindered their chances of making the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

In reality, the 2015 season has been nothing but a microcosm of the roller coaster ride Mets fans have been on for nearly three decades – where optimism becomes coated in skepticism, and where the road to respectability somehow always finds a dead end.

Perhaps they’re paying a debt for all the amazin’ magic that led to the 1986 World Series title. If so, it’s a heavy price.

There were the underachieving teams of the late 1980s, the pariahs of 1992 and 1993, the late-season collapses of 2007 and 2008. Terry Pendleton, Mike Scioscia, Orel Hershiser, Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter and Yadier Molina are forever entrenched as Met villains.  Juan Samuel, Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla, Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Kris Benson and Jason Bay make up a short list of ill-fated acquisitions.

Time and again, injuries that are diagnosed as “minor” or “nothing to be concerned about” end up much worse than initially diagnosed, leaving the media and the general public to question the medical staff’s credentials.

Then there’s owner Fred Wilpon and his son, Jeff — who are only slightly more popular with Mets fans than Donald Trump is with the Hispanic population. Thanks to the Bernie Madoff’s savvy financial advice, the franchise that once had the bankroll to lure highly-priced free agents now shops at the bargain bin, letting shiny new objects pass by with nary a glance. That left the team to slowly make progress through the farm system. The impatient rooters who wanted change quickly are finally getting their wish.

New York’s recent rise to prominence has been accomplished on the backs of its imposing arsenal of young pitchers. Matt Harvey, despite some shaky outings, has been mostly effective in his first season following Tommy John surgery — 11 wins, 135 strikeouts, a 2.61 earned run average (ERA) and a 0.99 WHIP. Jacob deGrom, a former college shortstop, may very well be the ace of the Mets staff. The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year has easily topped his debut season with the second-best ERA in all of baseball (only Zack Greinke is better) along with 142 Ks and a microscopic WHIP of 0.89.

For all the heat Harvey and deGrom bring, starter Noah Syndergaard has staked a legitimate claim on becoming this year’s premier NL rookie. “Thor” dropped the hammer on the Padres on July 29 — retiring the first 18 batters he faced before departing after eight shutout innings and just three hits allowed. By 94.2 innings, he had already reached the 100-strikeout plateau.

Lest we forget, there’s still the 25-year-old Wheeler, expected to return from surgery by next spring, and Steven Matz, the Long Islander who made two starts before suffering a lat injury. Even over that small sample size, the lefty made an impression – winning both of his outings (against Cincinnati and Los Angeles), giving up a combined two earned runs and striking out 14. His timetable for a return is early September — if healthy, Matz will potentially make New York’s emerging staff that much more dominant.

The failed “Generation K” era in the mid-1990s aside — back when the promise of Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson and Bill Pulsipher went by the wayside in a New York minute — this season’s staff is drawing comparisons to all-time greats.

New York swept the three-game series from Washington for a tie atop the NL East. Behind the continued success of the pitching staff along with timely hitting, the Mets grabbed first place – holding a 2.5-game lead over the Nats heading into play on August 12.

But the cynics of the Mets fan base can’t help but wonder if these good times are here to stay, even if the infusion of talent suggests otherwise. Considering where this team has been over the past six years — both in the standings and in the red — perhaps it’s best to put aside pessimism and, instead, finally enjoy a satisfying summer of baseball in Queens. 

About Joe Messineo

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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