Callaway: 'Anything can happen' in 2nd half

July 7th, 2019

NEW YORK -- To say the Mets’ first half did not go as Brodie Van Wagenen, Mickey Callaway and others in the organization envisioned would be a tremendous understatement. So smitten with his team over the winter that he urged other NL East clubs to “come get us,” Van Wagenen watched the Mets go from postseason contenders to likely Trade Deadline sellers over the season’s first three and a half months.

The final act was an 8-3 loss to the Phillies on Sunday to close out the first half at Citi Field. hit his National League rookie record 30th home run, but allowed six runs, and the Mets never recovered.

Still, the Mets have 72 games left to play; as Callaway departed Citi Field on Sunday for a vacation in Key West, Fla., his tone was one of optimism.

“I feel like we can make a run at this thing,” Callaway said. “We can sneak into that Wild Card, sneak back in this division. … Anything can happen in baseball.”

With that in mind, here are five questions facing Callaway’s club in the second half:

1. What will the Mets do at the Trade Deadline?

If the Mets truly believe they can wiggle their way back into contention, they’ll need to do so quickly. Because Wheeler is an impending free agent, the Mets can ill afford to hang on to him past the Trade Deadline if they’re not in the midst of a playoff run.  and  are also potential trade chips for the Mets, who would do well to restock a middling farm system.

Trading those pieces away, however, would essentially mean punting the rest of the season. So Van Wagenen, who has declined comment multiple times recently when asked about the state of the team, must decide almost immediately if he’s going to proceed with a sell-off, or take a crack at playoff contention.

2. How historic will Alonso’s season become?

Entering the second half, Alonso stands just 11 home runs shy of the franchise record of 41, which Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran share. He’s also one homer off Christian Yelich’s league-leading pace.

For Alonso, an NL Rookie of the Year Award and the Mets’ home run record are both well within his grasp. Might he also win an MLB home run title? Could he make noise in the NL MVP race? The stratosphere, for Alonso, is very much the limit.

3. Will the Mets get a better return on investment from their offseason additions?

Jay Bruce’s two home runs for the Phillies on Sunday only underscored how much Van Wagenen is smarting from his most significant offseason move -- a seven-player trade to land Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from Seattle. Nothing is going right in that deal for the Mets, who have watched both Cano and Diaz slump, while Bruce and Anthony Swarzak have thrived for the Phillies and Braves, respectively. The Mets also gave up two prospects in that deal, Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, with bright futures.

To make up for it, they need better second halves from Cano (.646 OPS, four home runs) and Diaz (5.50 ERA, four blown saves). They also need more from free agents Wilson Ramos, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson and especially Jed Lowrie, who has yet to appear in a game due to injury.

“Not the [first half] we want,” Cano said. “But I would never doubt this team until the last day.”

4. Can Jeff McNeil win a batting title?

When McNeil went 0-for-5 in Sunday’s finale, it marked just the sixth time in his last 17 starts that he did not record multiple hits. That’s how consistent McNeil, who matched Mike Piazza’s franchise record for the fewest at-bats needed to reach 100 hits in a season, has been. Even with that 0-for-5 on his ledger, McNeil ended the first half atop the Major League leaderboard with a .349 average.

“I had a good first half,” said McNeil, who was coming off a four-hit night in Saturday's win. “Hopefully, I can continue it into the second half.”

Despite their recent pattern of losing seasons, the Mets have excelled at garnering individual awards and accolades, with two Cy Young Award winners, one Rookie of the Year and one batting title this decade. Alonso stands a good chance of joining that group, but can McNeil, as well? His foremost challengers heading into the break are Cody Bellinger, Charlie Blackmon and Yelich -- a “who’s who” list of baseball’s brightest stars.

5. Will Callaway last the season?

For Callaway, the greater challenge might have been making it to the All-Star break. At this point, he has survived a slide to 14th place in the NL, a seven-game losing streak and a clubhouse altercation with a reporter.

Still, this is New York, where no one is ever truly safe. Wins matter and Callaway knows it.

“We need to have a sense of urgency because of the possibilities,” the manager said. “In my mind, anything’s possible.”