If the Mets want to really get their season going, it starts on Monday night. At Yankee Stadium. With their ace on the mound.
Don’t laugh. The Yankees can handle the high-octane stuff of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. It’s the precision mushballs of Vargas — the owner of the lowest starting ERA among Mets pitchers at 2.84 — that could tie the home team’s pinstripes in knots.
Syndergaard was nearly unhittable in throwing seven shutout innings in a 6-1 win over the Rockies at Citi Field on Sunday. The only hit he allowed was a second-inning single off the glove of second baseman Adeiny Hechavarria, who made a diving attempt.
Vargas, in his last start, pitched a five-hit shutout against the Giants. The Mets have won four of five and are one game below .500 at 32-33 going into Monday’s opener of the two-game Subway Series.
The Mickey Callaway watch has been canceled — or postponed, anyway.
Twenty years ago, in 1999, then-Mets general manager Steve Phillips fired three of Bobby Valentine’s coaches after a loss to the Yankees.
“We are one-third of the way through the season and that is enough time to make an evaluation,” Phillips said at the time. “There is still enough time to get the ship righted.”
The Mets went on to finish 97-66, earn a wild-card spot and win a playoff round before losing to the Braves in the NLCS. The next year, they met (and lost to) the Yankees in the World Series.
None of that is likely to happen this season. But the Mets can dream, and their dreaming can begin Monday in the Bronx*.
(*Or Tuesday, if Monday’s game gets rained out. The forecast is not promising.)
“I think that we’re going to be very, very, very excited going into Yankee Stadium,” Callaway said. “I think the city’s going to be excited. We’re driven to go in there and do everything we can to play the game the right way. Our guys are in a good spot mentally, a good spot with our bullpen going in, so I’m excited about it. It’s exciting for the city. It’s exciting for the Mets.”
And important to the Mets beyond the New York, New York hoopla. The Mets have until July 31 to decide if they are going to be buyers or sellers. The trade deadline is for real now, as a new rule disallows any trades after that date (goodbye, August non-waiver trades; we never liked you much to begin with).
The National League is a diverse circuit this year. Every team except the Marlins, Giants and Reds can make a case for why it could make the playoffs with a little luck here and a few July trades there.
The good news for the Mets and rookie general manager Brodie Van Wagenen is they should find out where they stand soon enough. Beginning Monday, the Mets’ next 25 games are against quality teams (Yankees, Cardinals, Braves, Cubs and Phillies).
That 25-game stretch should tell the tale. If the Mets are 10 games under by the time Pete Alonso heads to Cleveland for the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby (bet on both), that could be it for this Mets team and this Mets manager. Van Wagenen will be able to shop veterans such as Vargas and Todd Frazier to contenders and Citi Field will become a ghost town in the second half.
Check back about that on July 7. For now, enjoy the Subway Series. You know Alonso will enjoy his first exposure to Yankee Stadium and to the intra-city tussle.
“Different leagues, but we’re playing really good ball right now,” said Alonso, who is the Mets’ Aaron Judge, a comparison that will be made about 8,000 times in the next two days. “I think that we have a really good chance going in there. It’s going to be a hostile environment, but hell, this is what it’s all for. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be really fun.”