Say this for the 2018 Mets — they were never boring.
Painful to watch, sometimes. Chaotic? Yes. But boring? Never.
Despite a losing season most Mets fans would wish to forget, 2018 represented a memorable roller-coaster ride that kicked off with an 11-1 start and ended with an emotional goodbye to longtime captain David Wright. In the interim, the Mets experienced 28 stints on the disabled list — the second-most-affected roster, according to Roster Resource — Jacob deGrom’s Cy Young Award campaign and the loss of general manager Sandy Alderson, who stepped down in the midst of his cancer battle (the club hired former agent Brodie Van Wagenen as its new GM at the end of October).
The team that began the season as a contender for the division title instead finished fourth in the National League East, and the Mets needed to go 38-30 in the second half to accomplish even that (they ended 77-85).
Last season also heralded the start of the Mickey Callaway era, one that early on was marked by dominant pitching but hampered by a few rookie mistakes (such as the time they batted out of order in May because of a lineup card mixup), lack of depth and a stagnant offense.
The Mets also said goodbye to Matt Harvey, shipping him to the Reds long after the relationship had turned toxic, and hello to Zack Wheeler, who became a force in what turned into a career resurgence. Wheeler’s second-half ERA of 1.68 actually was .05 lower than deGrom’s.
Speaking of deGrom, he defied all odds, battling his own team’s lack of production with the same tenacity he showed while mowing down opposing hitters. His 1.70 ERA was best in the major leagues, and his dominance meant that voters were forced to overlook his 10-9 record. The 10 wins were the fewest ever for a Cy Young Award winner.
Other bright spots included Jeff McNeil, who more or less came out of nowhere to stake his claim on the second-base job, hitting .329 after joining the Mets at the end of July. Brandon Nimmo performed well as an everyday player, a fact that was further highlighted by the absence of Yoenis Cespedes, who again was plagued by injury. Cespedes played only 38 games, and his double heel surgery likely will force him to miss significant time in 2019.
Another disappointment: The Mets had the third-worst bullpen in baseball (4.96 ERA).
Despite the many difficulties, though, 2018 will be remembered for the one day all was forgiven. Wright made his final return to Citi Field as a player and went 0-for-1 with a walk. His daughter threw out the first pitch, he saluted the fans, and the fans showered him with appreciation, heralding the emotional end of a season and the end of an era.
EPILOGUE: THE AGENT OF CHANGE
Though the Mets end 2018 currently facing some of the same deficiencies that plagued them last season, there is one large, relevant change, and that’s the addition of Van Wagenen, who has begun his tenure with gusto.
Van Wagenen’s first move also was his splashiest (so far), bringing closer Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to Flushing in exchange for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak and some pretty hefty prospects — outfielder Jarred Kelenic and pitchers Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista. Cano’s age (36), his contract (the Mets will be on the hook for about $100 million over five years) and his PED suspension last year make the move a risky one. The Mets also signed Wilson Ramos to a two-year, $19-million deal, finally answering the perpetually asked question at catcher, and brought back reliever Jeurys Familia. What’s more, Van Wagenen said he has no intention of letting up, telling SNY, “I’m not going to stop . . . We’re not done.”