The Mets already tried a team meeting. That was Friday night, and we know how well that turned out.
So after two more losses, one lousy run scored in the last 24 innings and a pair of Little League-quality blunders in Sunday’s sweep-completing 2-0 loss to the Cubs, we’re wondering what Mickey Callaway has planned next for the Mets.
A how-to seminar on the basics of baseball? A weeklong retreat to restore all of this depleted self-esteem? Maybe a clubhouse visit by Tony Robbins?
Any of those things would be believable at this point, because most of what we listened to after Sunday’s loss, the Mets’ ninth in 11 games, didn’t make any sense.
Callaway bent over backward to defend obvious game-ruining blunders by Steven Matz and Jay Bruce, then finished with a poorly chosen blanket excuse for his entire bumbling roster.
Apparently, in the manager’s view, his Mets are putting too much pressure on themselves in the midst of this 16-29 nosedive.
“Let’s face it: This is a tough place to play,” Callaway said. “New York is tough on players. It’s tough on everybody. If they were in Cleveland or somewhere else, maybe they wouldn’t feel that pressure.”
Not once had I ever felt that New Yorkers, or at least the Mets-partisan side, would be envious of Cleveland — until now.
Those people have a first-place baseball team and LeBron to cheer for in the NBA Finals. Over at Citi Field, we have the Flushing Follies, a nightly off-Broadway production of unintentional comedy that is becoming more difficult to stomach by the day.
Missing players is one thing. Does it hurt that Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier have been away on extended DL stints? Of course. Same with Anthony Swarzak, Wilmer Flores and Noah Syndergaard.
But the absolute minimum for a major-league baseball team is to play the game correctly. There’s no legitimate reason for not doing that. This isn’t the Atlantic League. It’s a $150-million roster supposedly filled with experienced players possessing some degree of talent. And yet Callaway felt it was necessary to remind his group to smarten up after Friday’s loss to the Cubs — advice they didn’t carry into Sunday’s debacle.
Earlier in the series, the rookie manager scolded his team for poor fundamentals. Two days later, it was as if his clubhouse conversation never happened, as the Mets twice forgot how to behave with an opposing runner standing at third base. Both occurred in the seventh inning, with Matz and Jon Lester locked in a scoreless pitching duel, and helped the Cubs score the game’s only runs.
The first time was downright embarrassing, as Matz got too nonchalant with Javier Baez at third and floated a throw over to first, where Willson Contreras was standing. Baez already had a decent lead, then bolted for the plate the moment he saw his leg go up, scoring the game’s first run with relative ease.
“Honestly, it caught me off guard,” Matz said.
Matz pitched great otherwise, but that was rough to hear. Off guard? The Cubs won the World Series two years ago with this group, are among the favorites to get back there again and are managed by the uber-aggressive Joe Maddon. How is it possible to be oblivious to such a possibility?
Believe it or not, despite the tanking craze, some teams are doing whatever they can, every inning of every game, to try to win.
The Cubs took that first run, but the Mets gave them the second one when Ben Zobrist lifted a pop-up toward shallow rightfield with Contreras at third base. Somehow Bruce — charging in, Contreras directly in his sightline — failed to call off Luis Guillorme, who wound up making an off-balance, back-to-the-plate catch on the grass that left him completely out of position to have any play on Contreras.
“I felt like he was settled underneath it,” Bruce said. “We’re trained as outfielders to, once we feel like the other person is underneath the ball, kind of become the eyes for them when it comes to the runner. That’s a play I have to do a better job on.”
Wouldn’t it be preferable to just be your own eyes and make the catch in a way that totally discourages Contreras, as Bruce should have?
Again, this seems too basic to even debate, and eventually Bruce had to acknowledge the obvious.
“Next time I’ll make sure,” he said. “It looks terrible. I have to be better.”
It’s an all-too-common refrain around the Mets these days. A lot of talk, accomplishing nothing.