By DJ SIXSMITH
College Contributor Network
Eight years ago, the New York Mets fell one game short of the World Series and New York's "other" baseball team hasn't been back to the playoffs since. The Mets are heading toward their sixth-straight losing season and will fall well short of general manager Sandy Alderson's lofty 90-win prediction.
Captain David Wright hit just eight home runs this season and Curtis Granderson had an underwhelming .220 average during his first year in Queens. Terry Collins has never had a winning season as Mets manager, yet all indications point toward the 65-year-old returning in 2015.
While 2014 was another disappointing season for the New York Mets, the "Amazins" have several players that give them hope for a bright future. Better days are around the corner for the Mets, but a few things need to happen in order to get there.
First and foremost, New York needs to get rid of Terry Collins. There is no way to justify bringing back a manager who is 43 games below .500. The Mets can no longer settle for mediocrity, which is why former Met Wally Backman should be promoted from Triple-A as skipper.
Backman's intensity and fiery attitude are exactly what this floundering Mets organization needs. On top of that, Backman has been instrumental in helping several key players turn things around down in Triple-A Las Vegas. Catcher Travis D'Arnaud, first baseman Lucas Duda and shortstop Wilmer Flores all became better hitters while spending time with Backman in Vegas.
The Mets need a change of pace and someone that will not accept "no" for an answer. Backman is the man for the job and the Mets can ill-afford to wait much longer, or else the former second baseman will be managing another team.
While the Mets have a bevy of blossoming pitchers, New York desperately needs another big bat in the lineup. With this in mind, Alderson needs to go out and sign Nelson Cruz in free agency. Alderson made the mistake this season of signing Chris Young instead of Cruz and that one came back to bite him big time. The Baltimore outfielder has 39 home runs and over 100 RBI's, while Young was cut midway through the season.
Cruz will not only provide veteran experience in the lineup, but, more importantly, a bat to legitimately fear. Nelson would be great paired next to Duda, who was the surprise of 2014 with his career-high 27 home runs and team-high 83 RBI's.
The Mets can no longer use the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme as an excuse to not spend this upcoming offseason. After signing Granderson and Bartolo Colon this past offseason, its clear New York has the money. Adding a player like Cruz could mean the difference in lifting the Mets into the playoffs in 2015.
The only thing going for the Amazins at this point in time is their starting rotation. Despite not having ace Matt Harvey for the entire season, the Mets had one of the best staffs in all of baseball. Rookie Jacob deGrom is on his way to winning NL Rookie of the Year with a 2.62 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 134 innings. The 40-year-old Colon won 14 games and Zach Wheeler got double-digit victories as well.
Next year, the Mets are looking at a rotation of Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler, Colon and either Jon Niese or Dillon Gee in the fifth spot. Hard-throwing right-hander Rafael Montero and big-time prospect Noah Syndergaard are still looming as well, which is why the Mets need to deal one of their pitchers for a bat.
Shortstop is New York's biggest hole as Ruben Tejada and Flores have failed to prove themselves. Alderson could get a player better than Tejada and Flores combined by trading either Niese or even Syndergaard. While Niese is the team's only lefty and Syndergaard was once one of the most highly touted prospects in all of baseball, it is moves like these that will help get the Mets back in the postseason picture.
The future of the New York Mets hinges on the growth of its young players. Guys like outfielder Juan Lagares, catcher D'Arnaud and closer Jenrry Mejia all took steps in the right direction this year. Lagares became one of the league's best defensive outfielders, Mejia converted 26 of his 29 save opportunities and D'Arnoud significantly improved after being sent down to Triple-A in the middle of the season.
September call up Dillson Herrera looks like he could be the Mets' future second baseman and former first-round picks Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith should be in the majors come next year.
Although the Mets fell short of their goals this year, all hope is not lost for the future.
With the right moves in free agency and shuffling of the order, New York could be back in the thick of things next season. The success of the Mets over the coming years will come down to whether or not Alderson is ready to spend with the big boys and make the tough decisions necessary to compete.
DJ Sixsmith is a senior at Fordham University. He broadcasts Fordham football and basketball games on the school's radio station, WFUV, and hosts his own podcast called Game Time. Follow him on Twitter: @DJ_Sixsmith
By DJ SIXSMITH