In the end, it was another “Yes, we’re for real” statement for Buck Showalterit is Dishes in this young season, sweeping a World Championship doubleheader. But more than that, it was a day that in many ways served as proof Steve Cohen was right to eat the $40 million contract on Robinson Cano.
In that sense, it feels more like a Showalter team than ever, as these Mets continue to find ways to win while using the entire roster, allowing the manager to move chess pieces around the board as he sees fit. ‘hears.
Travis Jankowski and Luis Guillorme played a major role in the first game, a 5-4 victory, then Dom Smith delivered the biggest blow in the 3-0 victory in the last drink. Each of those players who could have been sent to the minors instead of Cano had the Mets decided to hope that an aging, one-dimensional player would eventually find some life in his bat.
Instead, Showalter stands by their statement during spring training that roster versatility would be key to success this season.
“We talked about it in the spring and it was fun to follow that,” the manager said. “I consider them regular irregulars. And at some point in the season we will need them to be regulars, and shame on us if we don’t play them enough to get them ready for that.
Translation: This is how Showalter likes to manage, mix and match, keep everyone involved, get players to buy into the team concept.
Winning makes it easier, of course, and that 18-8 start hasn’t hurt Showalter’s credibility, in other words.
So far, in fact, it looks like they’re built to succeed, with defense, athleticism and contact shots much more of the formula than in recent years, to go along with a dominant tee shot that featured Carlos Carrasco throw a gem in Tuesday’s nightcap, and maybe even a re-emergence of Edwin Diaz as one of the majors’ best closers.
“They’re a pretty fundamentally solid team,” an NL scout told me at Citi Field. “I think they could use a bit more power, but they can beat you in a lot of ways. Buck can take advantage of that with the way he prepares and the way he sees the game.
As such, Showalter was virtually giddy between games after watching Jankowski be the catalyst for victory, helping to generate much of the offense with his speed.
“He was excited as a guy watching his first Little League game, playing today and starting,” Showalter said. “Guys like him and Guillorme, they bring it to situations like this.
“Trav was a pro. That’s why we wanted to keep it. It brings some tools we need. It’s a big room for us.
It wasn’t hard to read between the lines regarding Cano’s situation. And indeed, as one person from the Mets told me, “It wasn’t a tough decision at all on the baseball side. It’s who we are.”
It helps that Mets fans are all on board, judging by the reaction on social media and then in person at Citi Field, as the crowd gave Smith a big ovation as he arrived at the plate in the first inning of the nightcap — a clear way to say the Mets made the right call.
What stands out, especially after the past two underperforming seasons, is how the Mets push the envelope offensively with speed and aggressive base running, and put the ball in play to advance runners or score runs.
What’s fascinating is that it could take the form of a contrast in styles between the Mets and Braves, with the NL East title on the line.
The power of the Braves against the full game of the Mets? At 11-15, the Braves haven’t played well overall, possibly dealing with a championship hangover, but they lead the NL with 30 home runs, including a three-point shot by Matt Olson in the first game which made it a close finish.
Either way, the Mets know better than to think the Braves won’t make it, especially after their strong second half last year, even without Ronald Acuna Jr. produced not only a fourth consecutive division title, but its first championship since 1995.
“The Braves looked flat but they’re going to be scary offensively when Acuna (just back from ACL surgery) feels comfortable again,” the scout said. “It’s hard to replace (Freddie) Freeman but Olson is pretty close. And (Austin) Riley is almost an under-the-radar superstar. It is a very dangerous composition.
Last year, the Mets had a chance to bury Atlanta early and couldn’t, mostly due to their offensive futility, but so far at least. this team is proving much more efficient, with aggressive hitters in scoring situations and much better at making contact when it counts.
The Mets believe much of this has to do with eliminating the information overload their analysts fed hitters on a daily basis, causing them to overthink pitching tendencies rather than relying on instinct.
“It was classic paralysis by analysis,” said a Mets. “Hiring (Eric) Chavez (as hitting coach) was the right move to release the guys again. He’s a guy who’s been there, done that, and sometimes all major league hitters want is a guy who’ll send them up there with a general plan of attack and a certain trust.
“Bringing in veterans has helped, but you see what confidence can do for guys like (Jeff) McNeil and Dom.
On Tuesday, it was part of the formula that allowed these Mets to make yet another early-season statement, this one in classic Showalter style. It may not be a coincidence, it happened one day after the owner made his own impressive statement.