The press conference room at Citi Field is ringed by enlarged covers of Mets yearbooks past. And the one from 1992 – the smiling portrait of Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray, Bret Saberhagen and Jeff Torborg – offers a reminder that events can go awry in Flushing and never get right.
The disappointment of a 70-something-win 1992 morphed into the 103-loss Worst Team Money Could Buy the following season – bad becoming epically worse.
So there was no sure thing that a Year 2 for Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor would make Mets fans forget a Year 1 that left questions about health and temperament after the Mets won 70-something in 2021.
But, to date in 2022, Carrasco and Lindor have been answers. They are elevating by far the most expensive Mets team in history. They are emphatically making sure there will be no Worst Team Money Can Buy, The Sequel. Carrasco and Lindor are reintroducing themselves to the City with a reminder of why they were obtained from Cleveland in the first place – by carrying the Mets to first place in the NL East.
Carrasco has been one of the NL’s best pitchers through three starts and two weeks, while Lindor is positioning himself for an MVP run.
“I hope people are seeing [what we could do], ”Lindor said. “Actually, I don’t want to say, ‘I hope.’ They are seeing it. ”
This could be said for an entire roster. The 10-4 Mets have won all four series they have played this year. The most impressive was taking three of four from the Giants, who won a MLB-high 107 games last year and began this series tied for the majors’ best record.
What made the series-finale matinee 6-2 triumph Thursday so impressive was the efficient manner in which the Mets dispatched the Giants. The nine innings played out like a skilled boxer winning round after round methodically and competently; a game deprived of drama and trauma and filled just with one good punch after another.
The Mets did not play flawlessly. But they covered up blemishes with a next-man-up capability. Lindor and Eduardo Escobar hit homers. A well-executed hit-and-run by Luis Guillorme set up a sacrifice fly by Tomas Nido.
When Escobar whiffed for the second out of the third with runners on second and third, Mark Canha swatted the next pitch for a two-run single. When Guillorme’s eighth-inning errant throw gave San Francisco its first base runner since the second inning, Carrasco two pitches later induced a double play. When Nido botched a sacrifice-bunt attempt in the bottom of the eighth with two on, Brandon Nimmo two pitches later lasered an RBI single.
There was a thoroughness to the win – the whole lineup contributing with usual starters Robinson Cano, Starling Marte and James McCann resting. Carrasco was superb, retiring 17 straight after a Thairo Estrada RBI single in the second. Joely Rodriguez and Edwin Diaz retired the only four batters the pen faced.
It was just four batters because Carrasco lasted two outs into the eighth inning for the first time since May 4, 2019 (also 7 ² / ₃ innings) against Seattle – Lindor hit his fourth homer of the season that day, just like he did Thursday. .
They were both with Cleveland then. They were obtained as the first signature move of the Steve Cohen regime in January 2021 – long enough ago that Jared Porter was the general manager, Zack Scott his assistant and Sandy Alderson was making the baseball decisions. The day of the deal Alderson said, “What we’re trying to do is change the reality and let the perception follow.”
He was talking about changing the reality that the Mets don’t make the big move, and the hope was the perception of the organization operating under a black cloud would lift. But Lindor did not hit well early or behave well late and Carrasco was never really healthy. The perception of the Mets – even under the kind of new ownership that would guarantee Lindor a $ 341 million extension – remained unchanged and, thus, unflattering.
But now Carrasco is healthy, Lindor is comfortable, the roster has more overall talent and a manager (Buck Showalter) who knows what he is doing. On Wednesday, Showalter noticed that Lindor was a bit heavy-legged and so took him off the field as the DH, but kept a bat in the lineup that produced three hits, including the first-inning homer.
Like a superb point guard, Lindor is filling up columns – four homers, four doubles, three steals, a .308 average, a 1.034 OPS, stellar defense. And Carrasco is using his array of stuff to help the Mets weather the absence of Jacob deGrom. In three starts, he has a 1.48 ERA and .141 batting average against. At 35, Carrasco’s legs and elbow are healthy and his stuff impactful again.
“That’s the cookie I know,” Lindor said.
This is the Carrasco Mets fans are getting to know in 2022, like Lindor a far better version than Part 1. This is one of those cases, fortunately for the Mets, in which the sequel is much better.