The Mets had a roller coaster season -- again. They took us from optimism to the morgue, back to the peak of hope and then to a slow stop before the end of September.
It wasn't all for nothing, though. If Brodie Van Wagenen, his staff and players can learn from the following five lessons from this past season, they stand a better chance of success in 2020.
Don't panic, the Wild Card is wild
The no-name Brewers finished with the 10th-worst ERA and FIP and were the sixth-lowest scoring team in the National League. However, because they caught fire at the right time, they ran past the Mets and four other teams during September to win the second Wild Card spot.
For the Mets, even when they were a whopping 11 games under .500 and trailing everyone in the NL but the Marlins on July 12, they were just seven games out of the Wild Card. It seemed like the season was over, according to most fans and talking heads. Exactly one month later, though, they were a Cinderella story, one game back, and had gone from having the second-worst ERA to being middle of the pack.
The point is, if you believe in your talent, stay cool and don't overreact because you never know what is going to happen in the Wild Card race.
It takes a village (of relievers)
Van Wagenen spent a lot of time last winter touting how he added depth to his roster of talent. He may have added utility guys and role players, but he didn't apply the same strategy to his bullpen. Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia were intended to be front-line relievers and failed. Justin Wilson was a solid addition, and Luis Avilian was a huge win and someone I applauded the moment he signed a minor-league deal.
After that, though, Van Wagenen added only Hector Santiago and Walker Lockett prior to Opening Day. This proved costly because, while neither Santiago or Lockett shined in relief, neither did Van Wagenen's bevy of young arms, none of which proved themselves enough last season to think they could be fully counted on in 2020.
The Mets do not need to blow their entire offseason budget on guaranteed deals for veteran relievers. It's fine to make bets with minor-league deals on journeymen or out-of-favor arms.
They need to make more than two bets, though, because the bullpen needs depth, too.
Ignore the chaos
Most of the silliness that is obsessed about is often just a way for us to kill time between games. It only impacts wins and losses if the team allows it to.
For instance, how many times were the Mets pronounced dead in June and July? Remember how everyone freaked out because they promoted an 82-year-old man (Phil Regan)? Remember when Mickey Callaway cursed out a reporter, who was later threatened by Jason Vargas? How about when talk radio and Twitter lost its mind over Van Wagenen sending an in-game message to the dugout for Callaway to take out an injured Jacob deGrom? Remember when the team announced two living members of the 1969 championship team as being dead? Or when Van Wagenen reportedly threw a chair during a meeting with coaches?
In the wake of all the above, the Mets went 46-26 in the second half to move within striking distance of the postseason.
Again, just because chaos keeps you and I busy, it doesn't mean it will doom a baseball team's entire season.
Take care of business on the road (and against the NL East)
The Mets were 35-34 against their NL East rivals this past season. The D-backs, Cubs and Phillies performed roughly the same against their respective divisions.
Similarly, though the Mets played very well at home, they were just 38-43 on the road.
In contrast, all 10 playoff teams were at least 10 games over .500 against their division rivals and only the Brewers played under .500 on the road.
Maturing players and a more experienced manager will help improve these results, which hopefully starts next season. Because, had the Mets played slightly better against NL teams, especially when playing them on the road, they would have easily won the Wild Card this season.
Confidence goes a long way
I love that Van Wagenen used his limited budget and resources this past winter to at least try to make big moves, such as trading top prospects for Diaz and Robinson Cano. It may eventually prove to be a bad decision, but it signaled to the entire league that Van Wagenen didn't leave being a highly paid, prominent sports agent to babysit a rebuild. Instead, he wants to win and hopefully generate buzz and exciting headlines along the way.
He did the same thing this past summer when, instead of selling players at the trade deadline, he sent off more prospects to add Toronto's ace Marcus Stroman.
The above didn't just pump up his players and fans. It almost certainly got the attention of all players around the league, specifically soon-to-be free agents, crystalizing for them that Van Wagenen believes in himself and his players and will do whatever he can to win.
Everyone around Van Wagenen need to follow his lead -- not just in rhetoric, but in action.
Go get great players, make big moves, bring in been-there-done-that, ring-wearing coaches, managers and players. Don't just hope the status quo will mature into a championship. That is exactly why things have stalled and failed in the past.
Instead, for once, the Mets should build on what he and the team did this summer and continue to take real, substantive actions toward being great. Shooting to simply contend is for losers and I have a feeling Van Wagenen knows this.