NEW YORK (AP) - On the final day of an emotionally draining season, Mickey Callaway knew exactly how to describe what he just went through with the New York Mets.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride,” the rookie manager said. “There definitely were highs and lows.”
New York said goodbye to captain David Wright, general manager Sandy Alderson and former ace Matt Harvey.
Jacob deGrom delivered a Cy Young-caliber performance that went to waste.
Zack Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo had breakout years. Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce got derailed by injuries. Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera were traded away.
There was pain and frustration. There was pride in deGrom. There were electric nights and empty seats at Citi Field.
And a sizzling start was wiped out by June, making the solid finish a formality.
At the end of it all, the Mets went 77-85 and came in fourth in the NL East. It was a seven-win improvement over last year, but a second consecutive losing season marked a major disappointment for a team that spent nearly $90 million to fill holes in free agency and entered April with October aspirations.
“I think there’s a lot more in the tank for these guys. I think the effort was there, but I don’t think we got out of them what we should have gotten out of them,” chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said Sunday.
The first order of business in trying to change that will be hiring a new general manager.
Alderson stepped down with a stunning announcement in late June, saying his cancer had returned. Assistant GM John Ricco and special assistants J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya ran baseball operations the rest of the season, but Wilpon said the next boss will come from outside the organization.
He said the search will be “very broad” and include “some untraditional candidates.” He’d prefer to have someone in place by the general managers’ meetings next month. If not, then by the winter meetings in December.
Wilpon said he would like Ricco, Ricciardi and Minaya to return - but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll be retained.
“They’re part of the failure that we had this year, same as I am and the rest of the front office. So it’s only fair to give somebody coming in an open book to bring in who they want,” Wilpon said. “From an ownership standpoint, I’d like them to stay. I’d like Mickey to stay. That’s from ownership, though. We’re going to rely on a new GM to give us that direction and guidance.”
New York starters had a 3.54 ERA, sixth-best in the majors. The team held onto deGrom, Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz at the trade deadline and believes they could still provide the foundation for a quick turnaround. Wheeler can become a free agent after next season, and deGrom is under club control for two more years after going just 10-9 despite a big league-low 1.70 ERA and 269 strikeouts.
The bullpen requires an extensive rebuild after compiling a 4.96 ERA that ranked 28th out of 30 teams. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman transitioned successfully into relief roles, while youngsters Drew Smith, Daniel Zamora and Tyler Bashlor showed some promise. But there’s no real closer on the roster, and several spots are wide open.
“I think that we obviously need some help, and I’m sure that we will address some of that this winter,” Callaway said. “I’m excited about the bones of it, but do feel we need to add a couple more guys to be the bullpen that we need to be to be a championship team.”
UP THE MIDDLE
Talented young shortstop Amed Rosario made encouraging strides in the second half of his first full major league season. He still must learn better plate discipline to raise a .295 on-base percentage. Scrappy second baseman Jeff McNeil was a big hit immediately upon arrival from the minors. He batted .329 with an .852 OPS in 63 games and played much better defense than projected. So the Mets might have a double-play combination in place. Catcher and center field, however, remain critical question marks.
With Cespedes’ status uncertain, the Mets could use some right-handed pop. The outfielder is scheduled for his second heel surgery Oct. 23 - this time on his left foot - but can’t predict how much he’ll be able to play next year. Wilpon said the team must plan as though the oft-injured slugger will be unavailable. Michael Conforto had a huge second half and Bruce, also a left-handed hitter, regained his power after a long stint on the disabled list. He could move to first base full-time, though that’s where top power-hitting prospect Peter Alonso plays. Alonso offers a right-handed bat with success in Triple-A whenever the Mets deem him ready.
Attendance dropped by 230,000 to 2,224,995, the lowest figure at Citi Field since 2014. There were cheers and tears in the sellout crowd for Wright’s farewell game Saturday night, but Wilpon said Mets fans deserve more, “and we’re going to produce that.”
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