By Ed Coleman
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Now that the baseball playoffs have begun (goodbye -- and quickly -- Billy Beane; more on that later), let's look back at the 2014 Mets, a team that was hoping to be a part of this 10-member group, at least until the untimely demise of Matt Harvey put a serious crimp in those plans.
The Mets won 79 games this season, an improvement of five victories over 2013, but nowhere near the 90 wins that general manager Sandy Alderson had floated during spring training as a way of changing the culture moving forward in a losing organization.
Speaking of plus numbers, the Mets were a plus-11 in run differential this season, which roughly translated should have delivered them 82 wins -- enough to snap their streak of sub-.500 finishes, but not enough to guarantee them a playoff berth (three of the four wild card teams had 88 wins; Kansas City had 89).
So, where is this team right now? Well, let's hear from the captain, David Wright, who had to watch from the sidelines the last three weeks due to the shoulder problems that probably should have shut him down a lot earlier.
Wright mentioned consistency, and to be a playoff-caliber team in 2015, the Mets have to be more consistent, both individually and as a unit. For example, the Mets had three months (April, July and September) where they went 15-10, which is just fine. But in the other three (May, June and August) they were well below .500.
Say what you will about Alderson and 90 wins, but 90 was the minimum number for any division winner this season (both Central champs, Detroit & St. Louis, finished 90-72). And Alderson has his eyes on 90 again for 2015.
And there's a lot to like. The pitching staff, even without the big boy Harvey, made strides, thanks to the emergence of Jacob deGrom, the continued maturation of Zack Wheeler, and, finally, the solving of some bullpen problems after much trial and error. What did Alderson like about his pitching staff this season?
With all the talk about the young pitching, manager Terry Collins didn't want to slight Bartolo Colon, who brought a lot to the table, in addition to 15 wins and 200 innings. And in mentioning Colon's season, Collins also threw down the gauntlet to his young pitchers for next year.
Offensively? Well, that was another story. But as Alderson noted, in his eyes, it's not as dire a situation as some critics have made it out to be.
And without question there was progress from home-grown talent, but even Alderson conceded that the jump to a playoff team probably cannot be done entirely from within.
Mets fans can only hope he's right. As for Collins, he'll enter his fifth season as manager next year with a pressure-packed mandate to win with not much security for himself, and probably not much payroll flexibility either. Say this for Collins: like him or not -- and I do -- through four seasons of losing baseball, he has never lost the clubhouse, which is not an easy feat to accomplish. Would he like some help or reinforcements from outside the organization? You bet. But by now, he's used to not counting on it.
Collins is already thinking ahead to spring training, and there are two things uppermost in his mind that concern him for 2015 -- overall health and situational hitting.
Just as an example, the Mets were ranked 27th out of 30 teams at successfully getting a man in from third base with less than two outs.
There are holes to fill no doubt. Both Alderson and Collins know the shortcomings in this lineup and on this team. And Collins perfectly expressed the dilemma faced when trying to solve them.
It should be interesting -- as opposed to frustrating -- to watch the process unfold as the Mets try to take the next step forward. I'll be putting in my two cents and suggestions during the offseason as it moves along. Hopefully it takes them to a different place than they've ended up the last six Octobers.
Odds & Ends: After all the back and forth and ups and downs about Davis or Duda and Duda or Davis, did anyone appreciate the irony in the similarities between Ike in 2012 (32 HR , 90 RBI) and Lucas in 2014 (30 HR, 92 RBI)? You can't make it up.
I'm not a big fan of the one and-done wild card playoff. That notwithstanding, think Billy Beane might re-think the trades of Addison Russell and Yoenis Cespedes. Although I like Jeff Samardzija, I felt teams were overvaluing him at the trade deadline and the price would be too steep. As it was, Samardzija and Jason Hammel combined to make 28 starts for Oakland in the second half and the A's went 10-18 in them (Samardzija 8-8, Hammel 2-10). And then he sent his cleanup hitter packing after that as well -- a bit much there, Mr. Beane. The A's did get Lester from the Red Sox, but Cespedes continued his production in Boston (33 RBI in half the games he had in Oakland and 67 RBI with the A's). And that was Hammel on the mound in the 12th inning on Tuesday night against the Royals, and the only batter he faced was Salvador Perez, and...
Sometimes, you can be smarter then everyone else -- or at least think you are.
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