When longtime agent Brodie Van Wagenen was hired to be the new general manager of the New York Mets over the winter, he certainly brought some bravado to the job. Van Wagenen spoke about the Mets being the team to beat in the NL East despite losing 85 games a year ago. He made big moves and gave great quotes.
Most notably, Van Wagenen told reporters the rest of the NL East would have to come and get the Mets in January. From Newday's Laura Albanese (emphasis mine):
"I think that we're a good team," he said Wednesday. "I think that we're a complete team. I think that we're a balanced team…and I look forward to showing people that we're a team to be reckoned with. I fully expect us to be competitive and to be a winning team, and our goal is to win a championship and it starts with the division, so come get us."
The Mets went 40-50 in the first half and currently sit in fourth place in the NL East. They're 13 1/2 games out in the division and seven games behind the second wild-card spot. Only the lowly Marlins have a worse record in the National League.
Van Wagenen met with reporters Friday to kick off the season's second half and he backed off the big preseason talk, saying the rest of the NL East "came and got us." From Jared Schwartz of the New York Post (again, emphasis mine):
"I said it. I think what you'll learn, and what I hope to always be, is that I wanna say what I believe," Van Wagenen said Friday. "And I wasn't shy in the offseason, but they came and got us. And I think that now we view ourselves as the underdogs. For the second half of this year, I think we have low expectations for what we can be. I think now we'll take the underdog role and run with it and try to prove some people wrong this year and then certainly try to improve upon it next year with that underdog in mind."
With the exception of the J.D. Davis trade, pretty much every move Van Wagenen made in his first months as general manager has backfired. The Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz trade has been an unmitigated disaster, several of the team's star pitchers don't want to throw to Wilson Ramos, Jeurys Familia has been awful, and Jed Lowrie has not played. It's bad. Really bad.
Truth be told, the Mets could use an organizational overhaul, starting with their meddling ownership group. Ownership groups can't be replaced though, and it's tough to commit to a rebuild when Jacob deGrom is at the peak of his powers and both Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil are playing so well in their dirt cheap pre-arbitration years. The Mets are in a bind, no doubt.
For now, there's not much the Mets can do other than ride out the rest of the season, cash in their rental trade chips prior to July 31 (Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas, etc.), and figure out a way to get better in the offseason. Van Wagenen dared the rest of the NL East to come and gets the Mets over the winter, and boy did they ever.