2019 New York Mets
2019 New York Mets / Franchise: New York Mets / BR Team Page
Managed by Mickey Callaway
History, Comments, Contributions
On June 20th, the 2019 New York Mets fired both pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez, and replaced them respectively by 82-year-old Phil Regan and Ricky Bones. In addition, Jeremy Accardo was named "interim pitching strategist", a newly-minted title whose exact content remained to be determined. The Mets had been expected to be one of four teams in the NL East in competition for the division title before the start of the season, but were falling ever further behind. A month earlier, manager Mickey Callaway had been on the chopping block but a received a "vote of confidence" from new GM Brodie Van Wagenen, although his position remained shaky. They were 35-39 at the time of the shake-up of pitching coaches, with the starters sporting an ERA of 4.67 and the bullpen a disaster area at 5.38.
The usual soap opera atmosphere, a Mets tradition, surrounded the team again, including grumblings about potential conflicts of interest in the team's off-season acquisition of 2B Robinson Cano and his large contract, given that Cano was Van Wagenen's client when the latter was a player agent; speculation about the cause of OF Yoennis Cespedes' latest injury (was he horseback riding on his Florida ranch when he should have been rehabbing?); and endless discussions about whether former football star-turned AAA outfielder Tim Tebow should be called up to Shea Stadium, or simply be banished from the organization for incompetence, depending on the mood of the journalist writing that particular day's story. There were some positive developments on the field, though, particularly the strong hitting of rookie 1B Pete Alonso and that of sophomore 2B/OF Jeff McNeil. But overall, there wasn't too much to excite fans, especially with the crosstown rivals the New York Yankees having a great first few months in spite of a slew of injuries. Tensions boiled over on June 23rd when manager Callaway erupted against Newsday beat writer Tim Healey after a 5-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. He accused Healey of antagonizing people and used a few choice profanities to tell him to leave the clubhouse, while P Jason Vargas joined in by threatening to knock out the journalist. The Mets were forced to issue an apology after the incident and fined both men involved; many argued that this should have been all the justification they needed to fire Callaway. The incident distracted from the fact that in that same game, Alonso had broken Darryl Strawberry's team record for most home runs by a rookie by hitting his 27th of the year already.
2019 was of course the 50th anniversary of the "Miracle Mets" and their win in the 1969 World Series. The team's front office managed to mess that up as well, as during a scoreboard tribute to members of that team on June 30th, they listed two players who were still alive - Jim Gosger and Jesse Hudson - in the section of the roster devoted to players who had passed away. To make things even worse, they mis-spelled Hudson's first name as "Jessie". They were roundly criticized for such easily-avoidable mistakes. In spite of their difficult first half, the Mets managed to send three players to the 2019 All-Star Game: Alonso' selection was a foregone conclusion, but joining him were McNeil, who had not stopped hitting since being called up for the second half of the previous season, and Jacob deGrom, who while not as dominant as during his Cy Young Award-winning campaign, remained one of the top starting pitchers in the circuit. There was more drama the last week-end before the All-Star break. On July 6th, the New York Post reported that GM Van Wagenen had been in a shouting match with Callaway and his coaches following a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies the night before, and that Van Wagenen had thrown a chair during his tantrum. Then, in that day's game, both Callaway and 3B Todd Frazier were ejected for arguing that Phils pitcher Jake Arrieta was deliberately throwing at Mets batters.
Heading towards the trade deadline, it was generally assumed that the Mets would be sellers, with the names of a couple of starting pitchers, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, considered the most likely to be moved in return for prospects. However, that was not what came to pass as on July 28th, the Mets acquired perhaps the best starting pitcher on the market, Marcus Stroman, an All-Star and the owner of a sparking 2.96 ERA, from the Toronto Blue Jays. It cost them two of their top pitching prospects - Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson - but neither was a top-end talent given that the Mets' farm system was generally considered one of the worst in the majors. While there was little chance of seeing the team turn around its season in the final two months, it seemed that Van Wagenen could not pass up the opportunity to add a top starter at a very low cost. Suddenly finding themselves with a surplus of starting pitchers, the Mets then turned around and dealt Jason Vargas to the Phillies the next day, obtaining defense-first AA catcher Austin Bossart in return. On August 5th, they swept the Miami Marlins in a doubleheader to move above .500 for the first time since May 2. By winning 17 of 22 games, they were now only 2 1/2 games back of the second wild card, their seemingly lost season suddenly meaningful again. They went 17-11 in August to finish the month at 69-66. It was still a tall order, with the Washington Nationals and Phillies ahead of them in the wild card race, but reaching the postseason was still a possibility.
The Mets were dealt a killer blow on September 3rd, however, when for the first time in team history, they blew a six-run lead in the 9th inning in losing to the Nationals, 11-10. With a comfortable lead, Callaway had decided to rest closer Diaz in favor of Paul Sewald, but he and Luis Avilan could only record ne out while allowing two runs and loading up the bases for Diaz. He promptly allowed a two-run double to Ryan Zimmerman and a three-run walk-off homer to Kurt Suzuki for a loss that basically ended the Mets' chances for the year. They finished the year at 86-76, in 3rd place, 11 games out of first and 3 out of the second wild card spot in the NL. The season ended on a couple of good notes, however, as Dominic Smith, who had been out of action since July 26th with a stress fracture in his foot, hit a walk-off homer off Grant Dayton for a 7-6 win over the Atlanta Braves on September 29th; the day before, Alonso had set a new record for homers by a rookie with his 53rd and final blast of the season.
Awards and Honors
- Anthony DiComo: "Revamped Mets have eyes set on NL East title", mlb.com, March 10, 2019. 
- Steve Gardner: "Why did the Mets trade for Marcus Stroman? Surprising deal actually makes sense", USA Today, July 28, 2019. 
- Claire McNear: "The New York Mets Are MLB’s Masters of Self-Inflicted Misery", The Ringer, June 25, 2019. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Marcus Stroman trade is a stroke of genius by the Mets", USA Today, July 29, 2019. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Mets ignore criticism, believe the future is now: 'We got a little swagger in us'", USA Today, August 27, 2019. 
- Mike Petriello: "A bold Trade Deadline plan for the Mets: New York is poised to sell, and here's a plan to consider", mlb.com, July 16, 2019. 
- Justin Toscano: "'I'll knock you the (expletive) out, bro!' Mets' Jason Vargas charges reporter as tension mounts", USA Today, June 23, 2019. 
- Justin Toscano: "Mets, who once saw themselves as contenders, have changed tune and will be sellers at deadline", USA Today, July 12, 2019. 
- Justin Toscano: "Mets send message by keeping Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler: They want to contend now", USA Today, July 31, 2019. 
- Justin Toscano: "Thoughts, questions, memorable quotes and more: Wrapping up the NY Mets' season", USA Today, September 29, 2019. 
- Jesse Yomtov: "As prized acquisitions flounder, Mets may rue the day they traded Jared Kelenic and Justin Dunn", USA Today, July 8, 2019.