Maybe it will turn out that the Mets are one of the teams who didn’t make the most noise over the past couple of weeks, or trade for stars — Daniel Vogelbach and Tyler Naquin and Darin Ruf were the position players they added — and still made one of the best teams in baseball better. And maybe a lot better.
The dividends on Vogelbach and Naquin were obvious and pretty dramatic at Citi Field on Thursday night as they won the first game of their important five-game series against the Braves. Vogelbach hit another home run as a Met and Naquin hit two homers as the Mets won, 6-4.
“Sometimes you don’t have to do as much in August because of all the things Billy [Eppler] did before the season even started,” Buck Showalter said after the Trade Deadline had passed.
Buck was talking about Max Scherzer, as important an acquisition as any team made last winter, Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar, all of whom helped put the Mets on top in the National League East and have helped keep them there. And they might keep them there now that Eppler’s reinforcements, even though they aren’t nearly as sexy as the ones like the Padres got with Juan Soto and Josh Bell, have come riding over the hill.
We all know how it goes, every year. Almost within moments after every Trade Deadline, winners and losers have to be declared. It’s fun, because the Deadline is fun, every single year. But the truth is, we never know which teams are the true winners in the first week of August. We generally don’t find that out until the last week of October, sometimes only after the big trophy is handed out.
We didn’t know just how big the Braves had won the last Trade Deadline, when they added Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler (they’d already traded for Joc Pederson in the middle of July), until they finally beat the Astros to win their first World Series in 26 years. Put it another way: If you thought Rosario was going to end up being MVP of the NL Championship Series and Soler was going to be the World Series MVP, raise a hand.
The most important season the Red Sox ever had been 2004, when they ended an 86-year drought since they’d last won the World Series, orchestrating the greatest comeback in baseball history in the process as they came back from a 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS that year. You know who they added that year, in a four-team trade that saw them give up Nomar Garciaparra?
Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.
It seemed at the time that the Red Sox had given up a lot more than they’d gotten. But Cabrera and Mientkiewicz — who would eventually end up with the ball from the last out of the World Series against the Cardinals in his glove — fit what they needed and fit their team.
Now 18 years later, everybody knows that Soto was the biggest and boldest-face name to change teams, in one of the blockbuster deals any Deadline has seen. But again, history has shown that sometimes the biggest names don’t always win the day. Last season the Dodgers added Scherzer and Trea Turner and their team ended up winning 106 regular-season games, but they didn’t end up making it past the Braves in the LCS because the additions the Braves had made, even if none of them carried star power, turned out to be better and more important.
Here is what Eppler, who has done his job as well as any executive in the sport since Mets owner Steve Cohen hired him during the offseason, said this week:
“Some of that undisciplined thinking can lead to years of medicocrity and doing the same thing over and over and over again. One of the things we’ve talked about here is just really trying to maintain that organizational discipline, to crush any urge to make a snap or an impulsive decision … for just some marginal gains right now.”
Organizational discipline isn’t easy, especially when you are being chased in what is going to be the best divisional race in the sport by the defending champs. But this is the kind of discipline that the great Theo Epstein showed in ’04, coming off a huge and bitter disappointment against the Yankees in the seven-game series the two teams had played the previous October.
Both Eppler and Showalter like their team. A lot. They like it on the field. They like its chemistry in the clubhouse. You see it all the time in the dugout while the game is being played. Watch a Mets game on television and look at how many times you see two Mets looking at a tablet and clearly talking — and talking — about hitting. A lot of this wonkiness comes from the manager, of course. But it is working for him and for them.
The Mets didn’t get the left-handed reliever they needed, got righty Mychal Givens from the Cubs instead. Some people only graded them out to a C at the Deadline. We’ll see about that in October.
And remember one more thing about somebody else the Mets added this week, even if it wasn’t in a trade: