Set aside for a moment the excitement and hype that came with the Mets’ remarkable second half of the season. Recall what the expectations were at season’s start.
The Mets wanted to win the division. They expected to win the division.
They did not come close to winning the division.
Instead, the Braves ran away with the NL East title for a second year in a row. They’re set up in a way that suggests they will be a threat, if not the outright favorite, for years to come.
What is the difference between the Mets and the Braves? Last year, it was 13 games in the standings and seven wins in the season series. This year, it is 12 games in the standings and four wins in the season series.
“I’ve always thought that we were comparable the last couple years,” Michael Conforto said. “It all just comes down to us not being able to hold on to a game. That was probably most of the problem, but there were also games where we didn’t put up runs for [Jacob deGrom] and the starting pitching. It just came down to us not putting a full game together. We match up pretty well against these guys. Our lineup is just as deep as theirs. Our starting pitching is better. And our bullpen can be comparable, as well, when we have our guys throwing well and throwing strikes.”
In Ronald Acuña Jr. — who at 21 looks like a challenger or heir to Mike Trout’s status as the best baseball player in the world — and Ozzie Albies, Atlanta has two position-player cornerstones. Mike Soroka has been an ace in his rookie year and leads a large group of young starting pitchers who have only started to arrive in the majors. Freddie Freeman, a holdover from the Braves’ previous era, is “not over the hill by any means,” as Conforto put it.
For the Mets, Conforto is the most experienced member of the young bunch: Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario and others. DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard headline the rotation.
On paper, the Mets and Braves look like two fun and competitive teams that will remain fun and competitive for the foreseeable future — not to mention what the Nationals, Phillies and maybe the Marlins do.
Manager Mickey Callaway, in discussing the difference between the teams, cited two common refrains for Mets people these days: the bullpen, which was poor this year, and June, during which the Mets went 10-18.
“They had a young core that came up together and obviously played very, very well together. I feel like we have that same young core,” Callaway said. “Ours is probably a little bit older, but they’re still young.
“We can be the same. We definitely have a better starting rotation. Our bullpen has got to perform better. But we can compete with them, and I think we will.”
Gsellman shut down
Robert Gsellman’s comeback attempt from a partially torn right lat suffered in mid-August is over. He was scheduled for another live batting practice session Thursday, but when pregame on-field activity was rained out, so was the rest of his season.
Gsellman, 26, finished with a 4.66 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He struck out 60 and walked 23 in 63 2⁄3 innings (52 games). This offseason, he will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time.