“I think it’s just a bad day,” Montero said through an interpreter. “I’ll keep working hard. Anyone can have a bad day, and today was one of them.”
Montero (1-8) has had a lot of them, like so many of his teammates. The Mets’ rotation has a 5.11 earned run average. The staff issued eight walks on Wednesday and has handed out nearly 400 this season, with 51 games to go. Last year, the Mets tied for the fewest walks allowed in the majors, 439.
“We have not walked people in the past,” Manager Terry Collins said. “Obviously, this year, home runs are everywhere. But you can’t put runners on base. You can’t do it. Hitting’s a tough art, and you’ve got to make them swing the bat. If you’re at this level, you ought to be able to throw a strike when you need to.”
Credit Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
It is too easy to say that the Mets fell apart because their pitchers were hurt. Montero was not much more than a depth option this season, but the Mets counted on Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman. They have combined for 55 starts and a 5.58 E.R.A.
Indeed, no one told the Mets life was gonna be this way. This was supposed to be their third playoff season in a row, a modest streak the franchise has never reached. Yet they headed to Philadelphia with a 50-61 record and a strikingly dull product.
Wednesday’s highlight was Amed Rosario’s eighth-inning single, which snapped his 0-for-13 stretch. Rosario is hitting .179 — Aaron Judge’s average last season, across town — and he has not walked in his first eight major league games. He sought out the hitting coach, Kevin Long, to help him let the ball travel farther before he swings, which should improve pitch recognition and allow him to use the whole field.
Rosario’s development is taking place in the majors, which is how it should be for a team like the Mets. This is the time to make adjustments and learn the rigors of a new life.
“Minor league players, when they’re in a league where they’ve obviously shown it’s time to go, it’s time to give ’em another challenge,” Collins said. “They need to be moved. Amed Rosario will be a better player down the road when he realizes what it takes to deal with failure. You have to fail to understand how to get through it.”
Fans can tolerate a losing team if they believe they can glimpse a better future. A lineup of veteran placeholders, unwanted by other teams at the nonwaiver trading deadline, offers little appeal. Trading Bruce — a free-agent-to-be — underscores the reality that the kids are the show. Maybe the Mets can also find takers for Curtis Granderson and Neil Walker before the end of the month.
“It’s fun to watch young guys kind of get their feet wet and figure all of it out,” Bruce said, presciently, after the game. Speaking of Rosario, he added: “He’s got so much to learn — in a positive way. He’s got all the tools, all the talent, and I hope we just all continue to let him play and develop and become who he is.”
For now, it is all about Rosario, but that should change soon.
Outfielder Brandon Nimmo has not started at all since the Mets activated him from the disabled list July 28; Collins said he knew what Nimmo had to offer, after his 73-at-bat trial last season. Maybe trading Bruce clears some space for a longer look.
Collins knows much less about Dominic Smith, who has not made his debut. The Mets plan to promote Smith, their 22-year-old first-base prospect, this month — and Smith should be here already. Through Tuesday, he had hit .301 with a .398 on-base percentage in a five-year minor league career, and his power continues to rise.
The Mets have tested several young arms this season, and the lackluster results still help, if only as a guide to understanding just what they have. The Mets should commit fully to finding out as much as they can about their young players. That is the best way to use the rest of their season, and the best reason to pay attention.