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Put it in the Books: An Autopsy of the 2023 Mets
Our Just Mets roundtable does an autopsy on the club now that the 2023 season has ended.
What’s Up with the Mets? ⚾️
The Mets introduced David Stearns as their new President of Baseball Operations on Monday (release)
Stearns signed a five-year, $50 million contract with the Mets (New York Post)
Billy Eppler will remain the club’s GM in 2024, Stearns said at his introductory press conference
Regarding Pete Alonso’s future, Stearns only said he expects him to be the Opening Day first basemen in 2024
David Stearns said he wants the team’s new manager to be able to pick a coaching staff - Joey Cora and Wayne Kirby are among those who’s contracts have expired
Final Thoughts on the 2023 Mets ✍️
Preseason prediction: 96-66, NL East Champions
Finally, mercifully, the most disappointing season in Mets franchise history has come to an end.
I wrote it a lot on the site over this past year but the vibes were never quite right for the Mets this year. Despite a fun offseason, there seemed to be a lot of leftover raw feelings from how poorly the 2022 season ended, the emotions of losing Jacob deGrom in free agency (even if it did wind up being the right move), and then, of course, the devastating season-ending injury to Edwin Díaz before we even got to Opening Day. The Díaz injury was a truly deflating moment that this team and fan base never were able to get past, and should have been seen as a warning shot from the baseball heavens that this year was not going to go the way any of us thought.
A lot of our preseason predictions are going to look silly now considering that the team finished 13 games under .500 and sold at the trade deadline. I still remembering not believing my own prediction in my heart as I wrote it before Opening Day — I think I was trying to will the excitement from myself more than anything. Ultimately, it’s still pretty hard to believe what any of our expectations were compared to where this team eventually wound up.
There will be a lot to do this offseason to try and ensure this type of disappointment never happens again but for now, I’m ready to wipe the slate clean and take a break away. I think we all need to get the bad taste from the last 13 months out of our mouths.
Preseason prediction: 96-66, NL East Champions
Well, that sucked.
I mean, seriously. What a bad year for the Mets.
For the first time in my life, I couldn’t wait for a baseball season to end. And, for the first time in my life, I don’t find myself wishing for Mets baseball to come back. That’s how terrible this year was from start to finish. Nothing went well in large measure short of some (very few) individual successes, they weren’t fun to watch, and there were times they played so badly, I just couldn’t watch them anymore.
But like I said, there were some positives.
It was fun to see Francisco Álvarez mature and take the next steps in his career. It wasn’t a great first year for him, but he showed the advertised promise he brings between his elite defense and stellar power. Now, he has to let the game come to him a bit, slow down, be more disciplined, mature and patient at the plate, and things will come together for him.
There was also the magnificent season Francisco Lindor had. He was right - sans the shift we were able to see how truly great he is at shortstop. He was absolutely magnificent defensively, and he proved once again that a slow start at the plate can’t discourage him, as he turned in the first 30-30 season of his career, found his swing from the left side and showed he was among the game’s best players overall.
Then there’s Pete Alonso who had what is becoming a typically prolific power season at the plate. He did struggle to use the entire field and struck out a bit more which contributed to the low batting average, but as I said to my wife on Sunday, he will never not be must-see-TV at the plate, because you never know how far he might hit a ball at any given moment. He’s on a hall of fame trajectory and win or lose, I always enjoy watching him play.
In fact, Pete was probably the only reason why I stayed interested in the Mets in 2023.
So, that’s that. Onto the next chapter, again. Let’s see how the Mets define “competitive” in 2024.
Preseason prediction: 90-72, First Wild Card
Welp. Smell ya later 2023. Smell you later forever. Admittedly I was not as high on this team as others were heading into the season but even I, the ever pessimist, could not see this coming. There have been worse teams in Mets history but none as painful to watch as this one, especially after the Trade Deadline. I still lay most of the blame at Billy Eppler’s feet for going with optionable arms instead of an actual bullpen, but the fact is the pitching as a whole underperformed outside of Kodai Senga and José Quintana. Luckily for the team those are the two pitchers who will returning to the rotation with the rest of the slots up for competition.
Gary, Keith, and Ron tried to find positives before signing off for the final time in 2023 and they mentioned Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, and Pete Alonso’s big seasons as well as the emergence of Ronny Mauricio, Francisco Alvarez, and Senga. A promising core is there as well as a revamped farm system and a new President of Baseball Operations to make sure the organization keeps taking strides forward.
Perhaps this season will be one that fans will look back on fondly if a phoenix rises out of the ashes of this miserable season. Maybe all the prospects become perennial all-stars or are traded for all-stars who take the team to the World Series. Maybe Alvarez and Mauricio continue to get better after finding some success at the major league level. But until the future comes and we know the outcome of seasons future, the ghost of season present showed the fans nothing but a stinkerooni that needs to be expunged from our collective memories as soon as possible.
Preseason prediction: 95-67, NL East Champions
All baseball seasons are long, but for everyone associated with the New York Mets in any way, this one felt infinite. Mercifully, the campaign came to a close this past weekend and attention can now turn towards discussing how the Mets can improve in 2024 rather than continually talking about what went wrong in the present.
And believe me, what went wrong is a long list.
To me, we have to start with the injury Edwin Diaz suffered pitching for Puerto Rico in the WBC. Diaz was on the short list of guys the Mets could ill afford to lose for any duration—let alone the whole season—particularly after like Linda alluded to, they’d already not done enough to add to the bullpen.
Just as valuable as Diaz would have been at the backend of the bullpen, his presence in the clubhouse and constant smile and positivity were sorely missed when things started spiraling out of control.
Next, this team was supposed to be built around two future Hall of Fame starting pitchers, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, and for the most part the duo was anything but dynamic. Verlander got hurt in spring training and missed the first month of the season, Scherzer had a high profile sticky stuff suspension early in the year, and the while they both did deliver their share of strong outings, it would be hard to argue against the notion that they underperformed. New York did exceptionally well at the trade deadline in the deals that shipped both veterans out of town, but that clearly was not in the brochure when 2023 began.
When looking at the team’s offense, in a vaccum it is stunning the club won only 74 games. If I’d told you before the season began that Pete Alonso would homer 46 times and drive in 118 runs—despite missing a couple of weeks, Francisco Lindor would contribute 30+ homers, steals, and doubles, Brandon Nimmo would stay healthy for essentially another full season and set new career highs in homers, hits, and total bases, while Francisco Alvarez crushed 25 homers as a rookie and journeyman Tommy Pham contributed an .820 OPS in the first half—be honest, how would you have guessed the team fared as a whole?
Sure the Mets’ bats were a little inconsistent, Jeff McNeil regressed a little from his batting title winning ‘22 campaign, Brett Baty and Mark Vientos did not make the rookie impacts Alvarez did, and Starling Marte was just never right after core surgery the previous winter.
But for the most part, the hitters did enough to hold up their end of the bargain.
The reason the Mets failed in 2023 is primarily because they didn’t get competitive pitching consistently. Carlos Carrasco was more or less awful in 2023, David Peterson and Tylor Megill both failed to assert themselves in the absence of Verlander and Scherzer, and outside of Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana, it was hard to feel good about anyone standing on the Citi Field mound.
New President of Baseball Operations David Stearns is now tasked with fixing these flaws on the mound, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, and if he can, I’m actually more optimistic than I should be that this can be turned around sooner rather than later.