The Mets introduced Carlos Beltran as their 22nd manager to the public Monday morning after giving him the job Friday afternoon.
Beltran said all the right things about what made him qualified to be the manager such as relating to the players, working with them and serving as a leader of men. Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen mentioned about collaboration that made him feel his new manager was qualified.
The public embraced all of this in as one would expect when someone new is introduced. Only the Mets can be such experts in these types of events. They know how to disappoint their fans, and they know how to get their fans’ hopes up. They are such a tease.
There’s so much to like about this managerial hire. Beltran has been involved in the game, even after his playing days by working with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman as an assistant. He is not far removed from the game in a sense he only retired a few years ago, so he knows a good portion of the players and vice versa. He commands respect based on him relating to players and him knowing the game well. He knows how to lead by example from his playing days, so players can pick that up from him. He can work well with everyone. Most importantly, he will be his own guy than people think. With Omar Minaya having a say in this hire, the Mets should get the benefit of the doubt here.
It would have been nice if Joe Girardi, Dusty Baker or Buck Showalter managed the team since they know about winning, but if Van Wagenen wanted a guy he felt comfortable working with where he can exhale in the manager’s office, Beltran made sense since he can work with anyone, especially because he wanted to manage the Mets despite his strained relationship with the Wilpons as a player. The Wilpons felt disrespected after he missed a team visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center due to a meeting with his foundation, and he wasn’t happy about them questioning about his right-knee surgery. If Beltran can move forward with the Wilpons, this should not be a problem.
But know this. If the Mets don’t make moves to improve this offseason, it won’t matter who is managing.
In a division that features the World Series champion Washington Nationals, NL East division winner Atlanta Braves and underachieving Philadelphia Phillies, there’s no way the Mets can be more of the same. It wasn’t good enough to lead them to 90 wins or the playoffs despite being 10 games above .500 at 86-76 this past season.
The Mets could use a hitter, another serviceable starter and so many bullpen arms. They need a hitter who can complement Pete Alonso, and no, despite Yoenis Cespedes being in his contract year, it’s hard to expect much from a player who is injury-prone. They need a starter who can be counted on to win every fifth day like Mets ace Jacob deGrom rather than not knowing what to expect from a starter such as the enigmatic Noah Syndergaard. They must get guys who can protect leads.
Internal improvement must happen of course. Syndergaard needs to learn how to pitch with any catcher, and he has to be relied on every fifth day. Edwin Diaz needs to know how to close. Michael Conforto has to stay healthy and be a productive hitter consistently. Marcus Stroman has to be the starter the Mets envisioned when they acquired him in a trade deadline deal.
A good bullpen makes the difference between a playoff team and a non-participant playoff team. Yes, the Nationals defied this theory by winning the World Series, but they had a great starting rotation. The Mets have only one great starter and so many question marks, so yes, they need a good bullpen.
The Mets blew 27 saves this season. Diaz can’t be worse than this past season, but he has to show he is the guy moving forward. Jeurys Familia offered nothing at all. This comes as Van Wagenen attempted to improve the bullpen last offseason, so he has to get back to the drawing board once again.
There are no easy solutions to fixing this bullpen. No right answers to all this. In other words, Beltran and Van Wagenen must hope for the best out of their relievers or their starters need to go seven or eight innings, which is actually what they should be doing anyway.
But again it will come down to who knows how to close. For the Mets’ sake, they have to hope Diaz gets his head straightened out and that last year was a fluke after a 5.59 ERA and seven blown saves over 66 appearances. They can make a case their closer pitched through an elbow injury.
With Zack Wheeler being a free agent and likely not coming back, the Mets may have to find another starter. And no, Robert Gsellman should not be an option to start. Either they trade for one or sign someone in the free agent market or else they should insert Seth Lugo in the rotation, which seems intriguing since he has experience of being a successful spot starter.
The Mets hired Van Wagenen to build this team and make this a playoff team. He struck out this past offseason, and he has to come through again if Beltran has a chance to succeed as a manager.
Beltran can also get some help from Diaz to make his job easy.