The Mets shed another pitcher from their 2015 World Series team on Friday, designating for assignment the hard-throwing reliever Hansel Robles. Manager Mickey Callaway, a well-regarded former pitching coach, could not halt Robles’s steady decline.
“You kept on seeing the same thing,” Callaway said, explaining that Robles could not make the proper adjustments. “It looked like it wasn’t going to happen for us.”
Callaway could have been describing the Mets as a whole. We keep seeing the same thing, and it looks like it isn’t going to happen for them. Injured superstars with no timetable to return. Shaky investments in players over 30 years old. A record of 10 games under .500.
That is where the Mets stood on Friday, when they returned home to face the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost, 5-2, at Citi Field. They were 31-41 before the game, the same record they had last season after 72 games. We know how that turned out (70-92), and this season feels just as gloomy.
Yoenis Cespedes played only half the games last season because of leg injuries. This year he has played 51 percent, slowed by a strained hip flexor and a quadriceps injury. Nobody knows when he will return, and the Mets have no solution to his chronic ailments.
Noah Syndergaard made just seven starts last season in The Year of the Refused M.R.I. He has made 11 starts this year, but Friday marked four weeks since his last. Syndergaard has a strained ligament in his right index finger and is still limited to the most basic of backyard drills: playing catch.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but our job is to keep the blinders on and realize each person has a job to do,” said right fielder Jay Bruce, who was placed on the disabled list this week but revealed Friday that his right hip had bothered him, off and on, since March. “I think that we have the personnel, if everyone’s doing their job, to be one of the contenders in this division.”
General Manager Sandy Alderson is not quite sure. Before the Mets’ trip last week to Atlanta, Arizona and Colorado, Alderson stressed the need to play better soon, with decisions looming before the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline. The Mets then lost seven of 10.
“We need to see some improvement in our won-loss record almost immediately,” Alderson said on Friday. “I think we all recognize that. At the same time, we’re still in the middle of June, and most teams are still trying to sort out where they are and what they’re going to do, and a lot will depend on what happens over the next two or three weeks.
“We have had conversations with other teams but nothing that I would call substantive, really just getting a sense of what direction they think they’re headed,’’ Alderson said. “Clearly, there are a few teams that are going to be buyers, there are a few teams that are already sellers and there are a bunch of teams in the middle. And I would put us in the middle.”
The Mets’ record would indicate otherwise; only six teams in the majors started play on Friday with a worse winning percentage. One of those teams is the Cincinnati Reds, who beat the Chicago Cubs on Thursday behind six strong innings from Matt Harvey, whose fastball touched 98 miles an hour.
Harvey has pitched eight games for the Reds after also pitching eight for the Mets. He has not been great for Cincinnati, but his 4.79 earned run average is much better than it was with the Mets, when it was 7.00. And he has made more starts, over all, than Syndergaard.
Alderson acknowledged the obvious — Syndergaard has struggled to simply take the mound the last two seasons — but hinted that he could still bring a lot back in a trade.
“I know how we view him and where he will be once we get him back, and I know how the rest of baseball views him,” Alderson said. “For those two reasons, I say, ‘Hey, we know what we have.’ And at the same time, we never say never.”
Alderson said he could be tempted to at least consider trading Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom if another team told him, “We’ll give you all of our top 20 prospects.” A 20-for-1 deal would indeed spice things up at Citi Field, but for now the atmosphere just seems stale again, with one refreshing exception.