2021 New York Mets
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2021 New York Mets / Franchise: New York Mets / BR Team Page
Managed by Luis Rojas
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2021 New York Mets experienced a wild off-season, even by their lofty standards of maintaining an evergreen soap opera. During the months since the end of the 2020 season, the team was sold for a record price to multi-billionaire Steven Cohen, General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen was fired, his replacement Jared Porter stayed in place only a few weeks before being forced to resign after a history of inappropriate behavior towards women became public, they swung a blockbuster trade to acquire SS Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians, and just before the start of the regular season, signed him to a ten-year extension worth a staggering $341 million. And then, they were unable to play their scheduled opening series against the Washington Nationals because their opponents were hit with a rash of positive COVID-19 tests.
The Mets finally took the field on April 5th, facing the Philadelphia Phillies on the road at Citizens Bank Park. All-World starting pitcher Jacob deGrom was as good as ever, needing just 77 pitches to complete his assigned 6 innings without giving up a run. And then the bullpen imploded in all-too familiar fashion, allowing 5 runs in the 8th inning for a 5-3 loss, with off-season acquisitions Aaron Loup and Trevor May acting as arsonists. Sportswriters then helpfully reminded everyone that it was the 31st time the Mets' bullpen had blown a late-game lead for deGrom, while second-year manager Luis Rojas was grilled about why he stuck to his initial game plan of allowing his ace to pitch only 6 innings when he was so obviously dominant (no one had yet forgotten the Blake Snell debacle in Game 6 of last year's World Series). There were a number of other acquisitions during the off-season: in the starting line-up on opening day were CF Kevin Pillar, Lindor and C James McCann, while Jonathan Villar was used as a substitute. But in a typically inefficient use of resources, one of the team's best hitters in 2020, Dominic Smith, was on the bench, as the Mets had been unable to clear a spot for him somewhere in the line-up with the DH no longer in use.
On May 3rd, the Mets dismissed hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant hitting coach Tom Slater, replacing them respectively with Hugh Quattlebaum and Kevin Howard. While the Mets had not been hitting well at all, acting GM Zack Scott stated that this was not the reason for the dismissal, but because the two were did not share "a vision for what we want our Major League hitting program to be." They fumbled their top choice in the 2021 amateur draft: at first, they were elated to have P Kumar Rocker fall into their lap with the #10 pick - he was expected to be taken much higher - but they then bungled their negotiations, claiming that their pick had not been fully transparent about his medical condition, and decided to pass on making him a formal offer, opting for compensation in the following year's draft instead. This raised more questions about whether they knew what they were doing.
That season, the Mets set an obscure record when they went 68 games without hitting a triple until Pete Alonso hit one on August 16th. That came shortly after new owner Cohen had berated the team's hitters for their lack of clutch hitting on social media. At the end of the month, another episode of the unending soap opera took place when newly acquired Javier Baez gave a thumbs down sign to the fans at Citi Field, in protest for the fans having booed the team earlier that month when it was going through a rough patch (the Mets had, for all practical purposes, fallen out of contention during the month). This was all that was needed to send the media into another frenzy. Meanwhile, team President Sandy Alderson threw oil on the flames by issuing a statement condemning his players for not displaying proper respect to the loyal fan base (by then Kevin Pillar and Francisco Lindor had joined Baez in "booing back" the fans. If anyone thought things couldn't get worse, they were quickly disproved as on September 1st, the news was that interim GM Scott had been arrested on DUI charges, an incident that had taken place in the early hours of the previous night after he had attended a fundraiser at Cohen's house. He was immediately placed on administrative leave.
The Mets played very poorly down the stretch, going 21-37 after August 1st, to finish in third place with a record of 77-85. That was in spite of having spent 103 days in first place. In fact, it was the most days ever spent in first place by any team to finish with a losing record. In retrospect, their season was doomed when deGrom went on the injured list in mid-July. Lindor, who hit .230, was a huge disappointment, and a poster boy for how little a $186 million payroll can produce. But he wasn't alone in underperforming, as only Pete Alonso, who had a bounceback season with 37 homers and 94 RBIs after struggling in 2020, was productive all season. Michael Conforto, Smith, McCann and Jeff McNeil all failed to meet expectations at the dish, meaning that the Mets had little to offer when their pitching was not dominant - something which became less and less frequent after deGrom got hurt. It seemed certain that another big overhaul was coming, with manager Luis Rojas stating clearly that he expected to be let go, as Cohen and Alderson looked for a big name executive to take over for Scott as the new GM. That person would in turn seek to install his own management team. And the top brass would have to move fast, as a number of key players were about to hit free agency and big - and costly - decisions would need to be made.
Awards and Honors
- R.J. Anderson: "Mets acting GM Zack Scott arrested on DUI charge", cbssports.com, September 1, 2021. 
- Zach Crizer: "Thumbs down for honesty? The Mets may be too interesting for their own good", Yahoo!Sports, August 30, 2021. 
- Chris Dolmetsch: "Steve Cohen’s Mets Dream Keeps Unraveling With DUI Bust for Acting GM", Bloomberg Wealth, September 1, 2021. 
- Mike Fitzpatrick: "After 2nd-half meltdown, Mets headed for offseason overhaul", Associated Press.com, October 4, 2021. 
- Bob Nightengale: "As Mets' new era begins, owner Steve Cohen welcomes sky-high expectations: 'I can take the heat'", USA Today, April 5, 2021.