September 21, 2023

The Mets are almost done for the year

July 14, 2023;  New York, New York, USA;  New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (1) reacts after a called third at bat during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field.
July 14, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (1) reacts after a called third at bat during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Good luck finding plenty of people outside the clubhouse at Citi Field expecting the Mets to get back into the playoff race.

The fans — who booed in the direction of Justin Verlander, Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Francisco Alvarez, Drew Smith during a flat 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday — seem to know what they’re looking at.

Those in power, those who will soon decide whether to launch a sell-off that would have been hard to imagine in April, are also under no illusions. It’s getting awfully late and trade talks are gaining momentum. Would a responsible baseball department add to what they’ve been looking at for most of the year?

No, Mets Brass has not yet made a final decision on whether to buy, sell or stick to the August 1 trading deadline. But it’s almost time to turn the 2023 season to the future. A solid run of at bats for Mark Vincentos in August and September. Ronnie Maurice on second base and Jeff MacNeilif he’s still there, in left field.

Tommy Pham, Mark Canha, David Robertson and other veterans who help battling teams — and maybe Max Scherzer And Justin Verlander at.

This expensive, talented team is almost done and it’s so confusing: why do they really play so badly?

Friday was more of the same. Verlander walked six batters in five innings, including the seventh, eighth and ninth batter in the fifth, all of which scored.

Thinking he might be tired, as almost any 40-year-old pitcher would be, I asked if he knew why he lost control in that spot.

“It’s a great question,” Verlander said in a tone that may or may not have meant he thought it was a great question. “If I had known the answer right away, I think I would have solved it.”

Boy, do those two sentences sum up the 2023 Mets. What’s wrong with this squad? Great question. If someone knew exactly how to answer, maybe the season wouldn’t sink into such a deep hole.

The same applies to the violation. How exactly does a lineup this accomplished give away an entire night’s worth of at bats? Brandon Nimmo doubled to start the bottom of the first inning, and the team went all night without a hit.

Buck Showalter rightly noted that Dodgers starter Julio Urias, a star in this sport, had four effective throws at work. I asked what he thought of his own team’s approach and the quality of the at bats.

“That’s something that’s private…” the manager began, before losing his voice. “We definitely saw these guys perform well against good pitchers. “And of course we will always give him public credit. And it’s a lot of stuff to defend on both sides of the plate. I’ve seen our guys make some adjustments. He didn’t get into many patterns.”

The keywords in that quote were “private” and “public.”

As a matter of principle, Showalter will never criticize his players during a post-game press conference. He sees and hears external toxicity all over the Mets and refuses to contribute to it. He believes it’s his job to set a steady, supportive tone – never too high, never too low.

But few people on the planet can decipher more details in a baseball game than Showalter, few who see the game so clearly. It’s hard to imagine him seeing from his perch at the excavation railing a baseball club on the verge of playing fresh, clean games or meeting payroll and expectations. He needs to know what he’s looking at — even better than we do.

It wasn’t all ugly. Showalter also watched Lindor field in the eighth inning. With the Mets trailing 5-0, the shortstop moved deep right to pick up a ball that should have rolled into left field. He fired the shot to second for a force putout.

As there had been a runner on third base, the score at the end of the game was 6-0 Dodgers. Lindor turned to the outfielders and reached into his glove, urging his teammates to keep their energy and focus.

Lindor’s leadership was admirable, but not strong enough to shake up the team.

In fact, it seemed as if he was just cheering into the void, begging for the resurrection of a nearly lost cause.

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