A fan leaned over the first base dugout the other day to yell to Mets owner Steve Cohen.
“Get Ohtani,” said the fan, likely out of desperation.
Cohen answered quickly and good-naturedly, “Who’s he?”
A few moments later Cohen explained to The Post that he and the Mets are concentrating on more current issues. There are presumably two reasons for this: 1) It helps them stay within baseball rules disallowing tampering with other teams’ stars, and 2) there’s plenty to try to correct right there in front of them.
Later in that pregame conversation, Cohen noted with a smile — and perhaps slightly sarcastically, at least I hope it was sarcasm — that they were two games over .500. (This was before two more defeats dropped them to an even .500.)
And lest anyone who hasn’t been paying close attention thinks that’s a fluke, please note that they tote a negative-12 run differential. So yes, they are fortunate to be .500.
They are also lucky to be in the National League, which is playing like the senior circuit (as in very old) and allowing the eminently average to contend. Two games separate the Mets from a playoff spot following their sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays, fourth-place denizens of the AL East.
Mets manager Buck Showalter said, rather hopefully, following Sunday’s defeat, “We are capable of better.” (If you study the transcription of Showalter speak, you will indeed find some pearls in the word salad, and I’d rate this as one.)
Perhaps we shall soon find out if it’s true. Among their next five opponents — starting Tuesday at the first-place Braves, their noted nemesis — are four winning teams plus the St. Louis Cardinals, who are one of maybe five teams as or more disappointing than the Mets (the Padres, Phillies, White Sox and Mariners may qualify as well).
I do think there’s a chance Buck’s right (he usually is, except when pitching to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.). Anyway, here’s a little bit of evidence the Mets are capable of better. Or at least that they have to be: If one were to hand out grades to all the Mets, the only one who’d get a solid, no-questions-asked A is closer David Robertson, who, as we know, was sadly pressed into that role when Edwin Diaz went down celebrating before the season even began.
Robertson really has been perfect* (I don’t count pitching to Guerrero Saturday, as he should have been ordered to walk him), and everyone else has been something less.
The fans are starting to notice, as the booing has migrated beyond poor Daniel Vogelbach, who never deserved the brunt of their ire (he’s paid $1.5 million, which is practically volunteer work by big-league standards). They’ve even hit lately on Francisco Lindor, the $341 million man, whose glove is apparently the most valuable one in baseball (Showalter mentioned he’s been good defensively, which really isn’t much of a defense for a man with a $34.1M annual salary.)
Really, you can’t blame Lindor entirely. He is overworked, especially with the team’s only true backup shortstop, Luis Guillorme in Triple-A. The only reason I can figure Guillorme was demoted is because they must have too many good players. But we know that can’t be the case, or they wouldn’t be out of the playoff picture while the small-market Pirates and the smaller-revenue Marlins are in.
It’s only right fans are starting to catch on that this isn’t all on Vogelbach, though he does need to lift the ball more (and that .315 slugging percentage) to fit his job description as designated hitter. He may not even be around forever, as more good players are on the way — Omar Narvaez, the original starting catcher, should be activated Tuesday — so it’s only smart that fans have started in on some real culprits.
Lindor’s average is .214, he has whiffed eight times in his last 12 at-bats and he may need a day off (though it’s hard to see that happening against the hated Braves).
Starling Marte is still toting a below-average .314 on-base percentage, which is a shame since the new rules allow him to steal at will (17 of 20 so far).
The best thing about Jeff McNeil’s appearances lately is his walk-up music (Def Leppard, he is apparently an old soul). Anyway, Joel Sherman pointed out that he has one extra-base hit in his last 31 games.
Even Pete Alonso, who isn’t far off his goal of a 60-homer pace (he’s at 56.7 at last count), is slumping.
Overall, the Mets are 22nd in OPS at .713, which can’t entirely be Vogelbach’s fault. Also, they rarely get a hit with runners in scoring position (0-for-19 vs. the Jays).
At these prices — a record $377M payroll — it’s a wonder Cohen maintains his good humor. Things look so bad now, maybe even Ohtani couldn’t make a difference.
Truthfully, the big thing that is keeping them going now is their belief, as Buck said, that they are capable of better. Let’s hope, with 100-plus games to go, that is really the case.
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