Sports of The Times: The Mets and Yankees Are Playing Different Games

So, a reporter asked Ricco, you think you can compete next year? He asked this in the manner a psychiatrist might inquire after the mental health of a patient.

“Yeah, definitely,” Ricco said.

Oh, man. Where to start? Last year this putative contender lost 92 games. This season the team began the season with the oldest starting lineup in baseball and seems surprised it has had lots of injuries and a record of 44-59, despite a 12-2 start. The Mets’ minor league system is a ship up on a reef. A year back, organizational swamis jabbered about Dominic Smith, the first baseman of the future. He hit .198 last year and .183 this year in limited time, and he’s hitting .259 in Class AAA.

In fact, save for Michael Conforto, a fine hitter who is inexplicably pull-happy this year, and Brandon Nimmo, a nice looking outfielder who endured a long minor league apprenticeship, the Mets’ minor league system and draft picks are a walk through an arid land. Players with promise, such as shortstop Amed Rosario, arrive in the majors unable to bunt and with a swing long enough to bring a smile to the face of a big slugger.

There is reason for optimism. The Mets’ three top starting pitchers, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, have fine arms and would be well within legal rights to sue this lineup, perhaps the weakest in the league, for nonsupport. A reality-based general manager, with the support of a creative owner and much luck, might in fact figure out a way to contend in the next year or two.

Reality, however, may not be a favored dimension for this front office. On the same day that Ricco claimed the team would soon contend, he emphasized that the team would be far more competitive this year. He noted that the slugging outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce were about to return from extended convalescence.

A few days later, Cespedes announced that he would have surgery on both of his ankles and disappear for at least eight months. As for Bruce, the slugger with three home runs, he has yet to take so much as a practice swing.

The Mets celebrated the passing of the trade deadline, and their acquisition of Mighty Jack, by losing to the Nationals on Tuesday night by three touchdowns.

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