by Paul West
Between 2010 and 2015, the San Francisco Giants won three World Series titles.
They were certifiably lousy–injury-riddled and inconsistent–for much of each of the odd years in that same stretch, so much so that said years became attributed to an “odd year curse.”
What does this tell us? That when you have a young, talented core, especially with generational talents like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, you don’t throw proverbial the baby out with the bathwater because fans and pundits become frustrated and panicky.
Since beginning the season 11-1. the New York Mets have been rather clearly one of the worst teams in baseball. Like last year, they’ve battled the injury bug; they’ve squandered opportunities in a mystifying array of ways; their exhausted bullpen, run down by overuse during their hot start, has coughed up lead after lead; and they were briefly in last place, after losing to the woeful Miami Marlins.
But there are many reasons why trading deGrom or Syndergaard, and initiating the reboot many are suggesting, would be an overreaction.
First and foremost: twin aces, the likes of the aforementioned, don’t come along very often, particularly not in twos. DeGrom is on the Cy Young leaderboard with microscopic numbers, while Zack Wheeler is healthy at last–and pitching with the conviction, and effectiveness befitting his once highly heralded status. Seth Lugo is pitching well from further down the rotation, and the Mets have quietly risen in the MLB ranks in terms of starting pitching.
Secondly: while the Mets are well behind the surging Atlanta Braves, it bears noting that the Braves–and the similarly resurgent Philadelphia Phillies–are two young teams, whose cores have not yet been battle-tested by a pennant race. Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals–whom they bested head to head in their 2015 run to the National League pennant–continue to fall short of the expectations which have hounded them in the era of Bryce Harper, who’s currently batting .217. All of this is to say that the entire division is far from invulnerable, making their current divisional gap far from insurmountable.
Third, we return to the example of the Giants. In 2012, the year of their second title, they started slowly and were 7 1/2 games out of first place by late in May; in 2014, the year of their third title, they almost gave up a 9 1/2 game lead and only finished the season at 88-74. Intermittently through the years of their even-year reign, their passing bell was prematurely sounded among pundits and their own fan base. They persevered, staying true to a young core which included Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Madison Bumgarner, and the franchise remains relevant even as this core has begun to age.
Last but not least, please refer to this very same Mets team, whose core is still intact and it only two years removed from a pennant run followed by a Wild Card berth. Before the season began, many people both inside and outside the organization suggested that this year’s team was better and more talented than the 2015 team–a team whose demise was also prematurely declared around midseason. If Yoenis Cespedes gets healthy, the starters continue to pitch well, Wilmer Flores and Asdrubal Cabrera continue to hit well, and Michael Conforto can return to any semblance of his former self–this will be a good team faster than you might think.
None of this is to suggest that the Mets will execute another dramatic rise from the dead and race their way to another pennant. If does, however, suggest that calls for blowing up a talented, youthful, still-promising core might be as premature as were similar calls for blowing up the dynastic Giants or the team which brought the pennant to Queens just a few years ago.