After entering the season with a pitching staff that was expected to dominate, the Mets have been struck by a series of injuries, several to the rotation, and remain ...and more »
The last time the Mets had a record below .500 at the All-Star break was in 2014, when they were 45-50 and in the midst of a sixth straight losing season.
“We kind of put ourselves in this position,” Mets closer Addison Reed said.
The first half of the season has been unpromising at best for a franchise that dreamed of reaching the postseason for a third straight year. The Mets trail the Washington Nationals in the National League East by 12 games and are 10 ½ back in the wild-card race.
“Health is almost the absolute determining factor in all of that,” said right fielder Jay Bruce, who added that he thought the Mets stacked up with “anyone in the league, in my opinion, before the season started.”
Injuries, which also played a central role in the past two seasons, could define this one when it is over. The Mets’ medical and training personnel have come under scrutiny as significant physical problems have mounted.
“It’s just been one of those years where guys are falling like flies,” starter Zack Wheeler said. “I feel like we’ve done O.K. with the circumstances that we’ve had.”
Jay Bruce of the Mets failed to catch a ball hit by the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong in the fifth. Credit Jeff Roberson/Associated PressThe ailments have taken the greatest toll on the starting rotation, the team’s backbone during its run to the World Series in 2015 and to the National League wild-card game in 2016.
The Mets’ “big five” starting pitchers — Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Wheeler — still have not all been in the rotation at the same time.
Seth Lugo, a key backup starter, and Matz sustained elbow injuries in the final week of spring training and missed the first two months of the season. Their return helped stabilize the rotation somewhat last month, but on Sunday even Matz faltered, coughing up five runs over four and a third innings.
Syndergaard, who had been pitching well as the ace, has been out since May 1 with a torn right latissimus muscle, and he may not return until late August. Perhaps Harvey pushed himself too hard in his return from last summer’s thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, because he struggled until a stress injury to his right scapula bone was discovered in June.
Robert Gsellman, an unheralded prospect who helped save the 2016 season, endured many growing pains this season before he strained his left hamstring two weeks ago. Even Wheeler, an early-season surprise with his consistency after two years away with injury, served a short stint on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right biceps.
“The best pitching staffs in baseball are the healthiest pitching staffs, and we haven’t had one,” Mets Manager said. And Collins is right: The Mets’ staff has a 4.94 E.R.A., the third worst in the majors.
The Mets discovered that seven capable starting pitchers were not enough to survive a season and that their depth in the minor leagues beyond those arms was lacking.
The domino effects exposed a leaky bullpen. Closer Jeurys Familia was suspended early in the season, and a blood clot discovered in his right shoulder in May then sidelined him for several months, further weakening the relief corps. Fernando Salas, Hansel Robles and others sputtered.
“We weren’t able to establish roles in the bullpen,” Collins said.
Along with their pitching woes, the Mets had trouble on defense. Because of injuries, some players had to play out of position. But a core of aging position players with limited range led to a team that ranked last in baseball in defensive efficiency: turning balls in play into outs.
Sign up to receive an email from The New York Times as soon as important news breaks around the world.
The regression of Asdrubal Cabrera’s defense forced the Mets to move him to second base and install Jose Reyes, who is older but faster, at shortstop. The decision led Cabrera to request a trade two weeks ago.
There were injuries to position players, too. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes returned a month ago after missing six weeks with a left hamstring strain, yet another leg injury in a career full of them. That forced the Mets to change his hydration and his pregame training.
There were also stretches without Lucas Duda (elbow), Michael Conforto (hand), Wilmer Flores (knee), Travis d’Arnaud (wrist), Neil Walker (hamstring) and Cabrera (hand).
The biggest bright spots of the first half were Bruce, who smashed 23 home runs, and Conforto, who earned his first All-Star selection after having been demoted twice to the minor leagues last season and barely making the team this spring.
“Just a lot of hard work and taking advantage of my opportunities,” said Conforto, who is batting .284 with 14 homers and 41 R.B.I. He played Sunday for the first time since missing 10 games with a bruised left hand and went 1 for 4.
But the offense, which faltered again Sunday, could not compensate for the troubles with the starting rotation, the bullpen and the defense. Nor could it keep everyone healthy.
Nor could it even keep Mr. Met, the team’s mascot, from making an obscene gesture to a fan in May. Nor could it have prevented an odd episode in April in which Syndergaard refused a magnetic resonance imaging examination for his biceps only to sustain the latissimus tear days later. Nor could it have prevented Harvey from being suspended three days for failing to show up for a game in May because he was out late with friends the night before.
Before Sunday’s game, Collins said he hoped that some of the injured players would return soon. But what will the Mets look like then?
The Mets have at least eight players eligible for free agency at the end of the season. Should the team declare this a lost season and trade away some of those players for prospects, Reed and Bruce may be the most attractive. They know that if they are called into an office later this month it may be because of a trade.
“If this franchise isn’t trying to make themselves better for the future, then they’re doing themselves, the fans, players, owners, everyone involved, a disservice,” Bruce said. “And sometimes that means trading pieces that you have currently to get better for the future. I totally understand that and respect it.”
Correction: July 9, 2017An earlier version of this article misstated the month in which the Mets’ mascot, Mr. Met, made an obscene gesture at a fan. It happened in May, not June.
Baseball,Sports Injuries,New York Mets,St Louis Cardinals,Matz Steven (1991- ),Collins Terry L