In a year when no one is running away with the NL East title, and the team that does clinch the division won’t even rack up 90 wins, Steve Cohen’s Mets collapsed when it mattered and tumbled out of contention.
The Phillies beat the Pirates on Saturday to make the already-obvious more official: For the fifth consecutive year, the Mets will not qualify for the playoffs. They were eliminated from postseason contention with more than a week of games still left to play. The club surrendered to a brutal, hard-to-watch free fall after being in first place for 90 days from May to August.
The Mets (73-81) lost to the Brewers, 2-1, on Saturday night, meaning they will not finish with a winning record this year. The best they can hope for now is to finish .500 at 81-81.
“It’s always going to be highly disappointing when you don’t achieve the goal,” said Mets manager Luis Rojas. “In the second half, we didn’t play good enough baseball and it led to this.”
To state the plain truth, this is not how the Mets’ new billionaire owner wanted his first year to go.
Cohen had lofty expectations for the team he grew up rooting for when he purchased the Mets for $2.4 billion last November. The highly-anticipated new ownership represented a beacon of hope after decades of letdowns for Mets fans. To complement his plump wallet, Cohen said all the right things when he took over.
“New York fans have high expectations and I want to exceed them,” Cohen said in Nov. 2020. “I want an exceptional team. I want a team that’s built to be great every year. I don’t just want to get into the playoffs. I want a championship.”
Um, that didn’t age well.
The Mets were built to be great in 2021, but a bombardment of injuries and an underperforming offense were just two of the flaws and adversities the club couldn’t overcome.
“I wouldn’t say we went down without a fight,” Michael Conforto said. “I think we fought. We didn’t get the wins, but our guys, we fight every single day.”
No injury hurt the Mets more than Jacob deGrom, when the ace was forced to walk away from another historic season in the makings and get shut down for the second half of the year. DeGrom’s 2021 was pockmarked with an assortment of right arm and back issues, but when he was on the mound, the Mets were finally winning for him. When he went on the injured list in July, the Mets dimmed the lights on their season, too.
Francisco Lindor, Cohen’s first big splashy acquisition, struggled offensively after signing a 10-year, $341 million contract with the Mets. The shortstop’s first year in Queens included getting booed by his new fans, being impacted by that lack of support, going on the IL for over a month with an oblique strain, and coming back to play with his good friend, Javy Baez, after the trade deadline.
“I think it’s pretty clear we didn’t swing the bats well enough, that’s obviously a big part of it,” said Conforto. “Losing guys to injuries, that doesn’t help either. Losing Jake was a big part of that. We had expectations of Noah [Syndergaard] coming back a little sooner.
“A bunch of different things but there’s no excuse. We had guys that were stepping up all year. [Marcus Stroman] stepped up in a big way for us on the pitching side. At the end of the day, we just didn’t swing the bats well enough.”
There was always a surplus of drama for this franchise under the Wilpons, and a new owner didn’t change the playbook. The 2021 Mets were headachingly faced with off-field controversy, from two GMs landing in hot water, rats and raccoons covering up a tunnel tussle between teammates, players giving their fans a thumbs down, the team president supporting fans booing the players, social-media controversies, and being one of the few teams that never reached MLB’s 85% COVID-19 vaccination threshold.
The 2021 Mets were uninspiring, and unimpressive. A busy offseason awaits to help fix the flaws and prevent future meltdowns. Cohen has a goal, after all: show off a team that is built to be great every year. He will have to make major moves for fans to forget the mediocrity they saw this season.
“It’s tough to try to explain what happened,” Conforto said. “I know for sure that each of the guys in here are going to learn from what happened. One tough year doesn’t define these guys. They’re going to work to make sure they become a better version of themselves in the future. We still got eight more games to try and finish on a high note and go into the offseason ready to work.”