SportsPulse: MLB insider Bob Nightengale talks about timely topics, including the disappointing NL West and New York Mets. USA TODAY Sports
The New York Mets stink right now.
They know it. All of New York knows it. And so does the architect who built the team.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson is the one who constructed this reeling mess, and despite the faulty wiring and building code violations, he isnâ€™t ready to tear down his creation.
Perhaps not ever.
At least not on his watch.
â€śCan circumstances change that, yes,â€™â€™ Alderson tells USA TODAY Sports, â€śbut I think that would be very, very remote. Itâ€™s not something weâ€™re even considering or talking about.â€™â€™
The Mets, who opened the season winning 11 of their first 12 games, have since gone 16-29, and are sitting in fourth place (27-30), seven games behind the surprising Atlanta Braves in the NL East. They have lost nine of their last 11 games, and after a two-game series beginning Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field, wonâ€™t play another sub-.500 team until the Marlins on June 29 – one month before the July 31 trade deadline.
Thereâ€™s already speculation that if the Metsâ€™ struggles continue, they may have to consider the possibility of gutting the team and starting over, which means shopping former All-Star pitchers Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard for a haul of prospects.
Sorry, but itâ€™s not an option Alderson ever wants to consider – not as long as heâ€™s running the show.
â€śJust because you tear it down,â€™â€™ Alderson said, â€śdoesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re going to have a great rebuild. It doesnâ€™t work that way. It just doesnâ€™t.â€™â€™
Not everyone is going to strip down the franchise and automatically become the Houston Astros or Chicago Cubs. Or even the Atlanta Braves. Itâ€™s not that simple. Besides, thereâ€™s a whole lot of pain involved in any rebuild; the Astros lost 324 games over a three-year span, finishing a combined 127 games out of first place.
â€śI donâ€™t know why itâ€™s become so popular,â€™â€™ Alderson says, â€śmaybe itâ€™s the product of the extremist. In our culture, youâ€™re either really good or you stink. Thereâ€™s no reason to be caught in the middle. Thereâ€™s virtue at the extreme.
â€śI just donâ€™t see it that way.â€™â€™
In Aldersonâ€™s world, he sees a team thatâ€™s still hovering around .500 despite a bevy of injuries, a division thatâ€™s vulnerable, and even a league in which no one appears capable of running away and hiding.
â€śI think there can be a temporary loss of perspective because of where we are,â€™â€™ Alderson says. â€śLook at the possibilities when we get players back from injuries. Considering everything weâ€™ve gone through, and all of the injuries, I think weâ€™re fortunate.
â€śIâ€™m as optimistic at this point of the season as Iâ€™ve been the last couple of years. We had challenges in 2016 and ended up in the playoffs. We had challenges last year, and didnâ€™t overcome them. I think this year weâ€™ll overcome them.â€™â€™
The Mets are expected to have Syndergaard back in the rotation Sunday against the Yankees. Third baseman Todd Frazier, who has been out since May 8, is scheduled to return Tuesday along with reliever Anthony Swarzak. And, the most important cog to their offense, Yoenis Cespedes, who has missed the last 20 games with a strained hip flexor, is expected to start taking batting practice this week.
The Mets know that a simple return to health isnâ€™t an elixir. The Washington Nationals have had more injuries than anyone in the league, and theyâ€™re 33-25, just one game behind the Braves.
The Metsâ€™ offense is a mess. Theyâ€™ve scored just one run in the last 24 innings. They are hitting a major-league worst .203 with a .578 OPS against lefties. They have a .350 slugging percentage, second-worst in baseball. The Metsâ€™ cleanup hitters have combined for two home runs all season. Right fielder Jay Bruce is hitting .222 with just three homers and 15 RBI. The bullpen is 1-7 and yielding a 7.94 ERA over the last 11 games. And theyâ€™ve been sloppy, prompting rookie manager Mickey Callaway to call a team meeting last weekend, saying, â€śWeâ€™re not playing the game the right way.â€ť
Theyâ€™re putting out fires these days literally and figuratively, with flames erupting last week in the rotunda near the stadiumâ€™s main entrance, the marketing department calling off the Frazier replica batting practice pullover giveaway because of a malfunction, and Callawayâ€™s lineup card snafu last month that helped cost them a game against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Mets have six weeks to start playing better baseball, reinforcing Aldersonâ€™s optimism, and dispel any notion that trading deGrom and Syndergaard is the best path forward.
â€śI really believe weâ€™ll start playing better,â€™â€™ Alderson said. â€śOur starting pitching has to get into a routine and lengthen out so we donâ€™t have to endure a three or four-inning start on a fairly regular basis. That will allow us to your pen the way we like.
â€śIf that happens, I think youâ€™ll see improvement.â€™â€™
And, if not?
Â â€śWeâ€™ll make an evaluation then,â€™â€™ Alderson says. â€śWho knows what the future will bring? But Iâ€™m not thinking that way. I really believe we can turn this around.â€™â€™
Let the others have their tear-downs and rebuilds. Alderson, 70, doesnâ€™t have the time or patience.
Now, itâ€™s up to Mets to start winning to assure that the rest of the organization views it the same way.