CINCINNATI — Ask Buck Showalter or any of his Mets about the state of the team at the halfway point of their season, and they all pretty much stay on message: What they’ve done so far is well and good and fun, but they haven’t actually accomplished anything yet.
And that is true. But so is this: This is the first time in Showalter’s 21 seasons of managing in the majors that his club is on pace — through the front end of the schedule — to win 100 games. The Mets (50-31) reached their midway mark Tuesday night in the 1-0 loss to the Reds, game No. 81 of 162.
Showalter’s previous standard-setters were the 1994 Yankees, who went 48-33 but had their championships dreams die when the players’ strike led to the cancellation of the World Series. Showalter’s winningest team, the 100-win 1999 Diamondbacks, were 44-37 when they were half done.
As the Mets look to give Showalter a new personal best, they like what they have.
“We’re good and we know it,” Mark Canha said. “I would say we’re happy with where we’re at. When we play the way we’re capable of playing, we’re a really good baseball team.”
Brandon Nimmo said: “It’s been a good first half. I don’t think anybody would complain about it. But we also know that we have places that we can get better and that opportunities we haven’t taken advantage of . . . I’d say given what’s happened in the first half of the season, we’d be pretty happy if you told us at the beginning of the year, ‘Hey, these things are going to happen and you’re still going to be at 50 or 51 wins at the [halfway point].’”
Showalter reiterated this week what he has said for months: The Mets’ first goal is to “be better than four teams,” i.e. win the NL East. Atlanta, 2 1/2 games back after Tuesday's games, has made the division race interesting.
Plenty can and will happen the next three months.
“Our guys have a real maturity about the length of the season and not try to get into that sky-is-falling or ‘you’re the best’ [mentality],” Showalter said. “They don’t get too high or too low with it. There’s a lot of outside factors that make you think you’re worse than you are and make you think you’re better than you are. So they stay pretty level-headed about it.”
The Mets designated Chasen Shreve for assignment to make room on the roster for Max Scherzer, who returned from the injured list to pitch against the Reds on Tuesday.
After signing a minor-league contract early in spring training and winning a bullpen job with a strong camp, Shreve had been the team’s worst regular reliever, posting a 6.49 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.
“Chasen will get a chance to pitch again. It’s a tough conversation. But he handled it with a lot of class and professionalism like we expected him to,” Showalter said. “He’s capable of better. He pitched well for us at times this year and helped us win this game. We’re kind of at the point where we had to make some tough decisions, so we made them.”
Translation: In a pennant race, preserving organizational depth — like when teams send a better-performing player to the minors instead of cutting a worse one — is not as important as actual on-field productivity. Hence, relievers like Colin Holderman and Adonis Medina stick around, at least for now.
“There’s two more moves coming,” Showalter said.
The Mets will need to clear additional spots when David Peterson (paternity list) returns on Wednesday and when Chris Bassitt (COVID-19) returns at some point, the Mets hope this weekend.
Informed that he was approaching another name on the majors’ all-time managerial wins list, Showalter cracked: “In losses? Another guy who is no longer on the Earth? I keep telling people: I’m passing a lot of people who aren’t here anymore. You know what that means.”
Showalter has 1,601 wins, good for 22nd among every manager ever. That is one shy of Fred Clarke, who died in 1960. He compiled 1,602 victories while guiding the Louisville Colonels (1897-99) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1900-15).
With a big second half by the Mets, Showalter might match a living ex-manager: Mike Scioscia (1,650).