The Mets made one of the splashiest moves of the offseason by signing Max Scherzer, who finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting last season. The team also added outfielders Staring Marte and Mark Canha and infielder Eduardo Escobar and traded for pitcher Chris Bassitt. The Mets also hired Buck Showalter as their new manager.
New York already had a nucleus that includes Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Taijuan Walker. Losing pitcher Jacob deGrom for the start of the season is a setback, but there’s no lack of optimism in Queens.
Mike Piazza understands what the Mets are facing. New York acquired Piazza from the Florida Marlins in the middle of the 1998 season after the Los Angeles Dodgers had already traded him. He played more than seven years with the Mets and was a six-time All-Star, helping them make a World Series appearance in 2000.
Piazza told Fox News Digital in a recent interview ahead of Opening Day there was “no secret formula” for the team to get back in contention for the World Series. The team just has to play as one.
“Obviously, there’s pressure on them this year, but I don’t think it’s really different than any other years.” Piazza said. “It really has to do with the mentality of the team. I think they have some very good players, and they’ve made some really interesting trades and signings and things like that.
“But it really comes down to a team that’s going to play for the name on the front of the uniform, not the name on the back of the uniform, and you have to have guys that are able to contribute. To use a dated term — ‘step up’ in situations where you wouldn’t normally think that this guy would produce.
“It has to come down to playing as a team, having one heartbeat. Having guys that if they do get injured, you have people willing and able to step in and take those situations on their back. You have to have some luck, too. I think baseball is 80% preparation, 20% luck.
“And if you’re doing the right things, then you start to get the good bounces. You start to get the balls that when you’re hitting, go fair instead of foul, and you get those called third strikes that maybe you wouldn’t normally get if you’re wild. There’s no secret formula. Winning is hard. Winning a World Series is really difficult. A lot of things have to go right, but I think staying injury-free and playing as a team to me are two of the biggest attributes that a winning team has to have.”
Alonso is entering his fourth season with the Mets. He hit 37 home runs with a .262 batting average and a .863 OPS in 152 games in 2021. Lindor is entering his second season with the Mets and didn’t exactly perform like his All-Star self. He hit 20 homers with a .230 batting average and a .734 OPS in 125 games.
Piazza said while the pressure is going to be there, winning will come down to doing the “right things.”
“I think there’s always pressure in New York City and especially in a year that there’s a lot of excitement around the team and there’s a lot of optimism from the fans,” Piazza said. “And I think the Mets fans sometimes have a little bit of a negative perception of things with the team. And baseball by nature is superstitious at times, and I think we can go to the extreme. But also pressure is self-inflicted. I think it really comes down to just playing good baseball and doing the right things.”
“And I made some comments in spring training this year with Lindor. I mean he just has to do what he’s supposed to do and you don’t have to be Superman. You don’t have to do extraordinary things. I mean, every now and then, yes, it’s good to do an extraordinary thing, but make the plays you are supposed to make. Drive in the runs you’re supposed to drive in. Stay away from prolonged slumps. And if you’re not swinging the bat well, do the little things that could help your ball club.
“The same goes with Pete. I think Pete at times starts to go out of the strike zone and do too much. And I told him this spring … I go, ‘Hey man, if they’re gonna walk you and they’re gonna throw you balls in the dirt, you’ve got to take them. You have to take them, and you have to let the guy behind you do it.’ I don’t think it’s a secret formula. I’ve been blessed to have some good years in New York under some pressure situations, and it’s a question of just focusing and realizing what your job is and staying within yourself and not trying to do too much.”
DeGrom, who won the Cy Young award in 2018 and 2019, will miss some time. He won’t be able to throw for up to four weeks due to inflammation in his shoulder area. The Mets said last week an MRI showed a stress reaction on his right scapula that caused inflammation.
Piazza said while it’s disheartening for the team to lose a guy like deGrom, other players will have to step up.
“I think Jacob means a lot to the team, and he’s set the gold standard in the last decade or so when it comes to big-game pitchers and Cy Youngs and things like that. What a team needs is someone who can go out there and give you a legitimate chance to win every single time he pitches,” Piazza told Fox News Digital.
“With that said, you still have to find a way to persevere when these guys go down, and you have to find a way to ride out the storm and have someone step in and maybe not be Jacob deGrom but maybe 60-70% of him,” Piazza added. “Get games to the bullpen and do things like that. It’s easy when the big dog is running and everyone’s just kind of following behind. But it’s harder when everyone else has to kind of pick up the slack a little bit and that’s the true test of a team, true test of the leadership of a team.
“And I think there’s no question the team’s going to suffer a little bit when you lose a guy like that, but you still have to persevere and win those games — those tight games — instead of rolling over and realizing or sort of admitting, ‘Well, we’re not going to be in this game because we don’t have deGrom.’ You have to find a way to overcome adversity, especially in a sport that is so based on team structure.”
New York’s season starts on the road Thursday with the Washington Nationals followed by a series with the Philadelphia Phillies. The team’s home opener is against the Arizona Diamondbacks April 15, Jackie Robinson Day.
New York finished 77-85 in the National League East in 2021. The team started 10-11 in April and got hot in May before fizzling out by the end of the summer.