PITTSBURGH — The Mets have suffered many comical losses throughout franchise history. They suffered horrific losses and heartbreaking losses. They also fielded obviously bad teams that blatantly played baseball.
But even those teams never did what the 2023 Mets did this week in Atlanta when they had leads of at least three or more runs three nights in a row, only to blow them up and lose every night.
It was the first time in franchise history the Mets had accomplished that feat, and to make matters worse, it resulted in a sweep by the Braves, who are spending far less.
The Mets head to a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday at PNC Park at 30-33, leaving them 8½ games out of first place in Eastern Newfoundland. Worse still, the team lost Pete Alonso to the injured list. Buck Showalter’s decision to defer to Billy Eppler when asked about Alonso’s MRI results on Thursday was an ominous prediction. The GM usually doesn’t talk about injuries if there’s nothing to talk about.
Fans want blood. They point and blame and they’re upset that Showalter and Eppler don’t do the same.
So what happens next? Let’s try to unpack these questions.
Showalter made questionable managerial decisions in the game and continued to stick with struggling players in the lineup. But the manager can only play the players assigned to him, and it looks like some of his autonomy has been taken away from him.
When pressed about choosing to continue using DH Daniel Vogelbach instead of rookie infielder Mark Vientos, Showalter spoke about “projections” and other information provided to him by the front office. Reading between the lines, that likely means Eppler and his analysis team had a say in the decision, which is not uncommon in today’s game.
Here is Eppler’s list. It was his decision not to add a bigger bat during the winter. It was his decision not to add another reliever after Edwin Diaz fell during the World Baseball Classic. Consider the fact that Atlanta was able to use Raisel Iglesias closer in the 10th inning Thursday night while the Mets used Tommy Hunter. The game wasn’t about how Showalter ran his bullpen, it was about better personnel in the Braves’ bullpen.
Eppler built a formation based on length, without considering what would happen if the batters failed to reach base. The Mets are scoring 4.40 runs per game, 16th in MLB, and batting .238 with runners in scoring position, tied for 22nd.
There’s probably a lot of blame to be had, but it’s Steve Cohen’s job to decide who takes the fall and decide if someone should do it in the first place.
It’s not uncommon for a team to part ways with a head coach or manager during the season, only for the new guy to turn things around.
Last season, the Philadelphia Phillies fired Joe Girardi after 51 games and replaced him with interim manager Rob Thomson. They then reached the World Series. The Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt in January 2016 and his replacement, Tyronn Lue, coached them to a championship. The Los Angeles Kings fired head coach Terry Murray in 2011 and replaced him with Darryl Sutter before winning the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup championship.
However, that doesn’t mean the Mets would have the same success. They don’t have a natural in-house replacement to replace Showalter or Eppler. The Mets recruited them to help stabilize the operation after years of mismanagement from the clubhouse to the front office.
Just two years ago, the Mets were embroiled in multiple organizational culture surveys. The thumbs-down incident would never happen on Showalter’s watch. To fire one or both figureheads would only cause chaos at a time when things are relatively stable, despite the toll on the pitch.
There’s no easy way to fix the Mets at this point in the season. Eppler’s track record at the trade deadline doesn’t inspire confidence either, but just because he went short last year doesn’t mean he’ll do the same this year.
They could bring in slugger Ronny Mauricio to try and get the offense going, but he can’t pitch the ninth inning. Plus, if they’re not going to play rookies every day, then why bother?
Reworking the bullpen would be a good step. The Mets probably don’t need three cleanup guys, but they could use another southpaw.
The only thing the Mets can do next is go out and play.
“It’s not a fun part to go through. That’s not how you look at it,” outfielder Brandon Nimmo said. “But your only option is to keep pushing and pushing through, and putting a lot of hope in that, tomorrow you’re going to turn things around.”