SAN DIEGO -- The Mets’ 3-2 loss to the Padres on Wednesday told only part of the story of their past week. The rest was no better. A 1-5 road trip left a sour taste in the mouths of the Mets, who fell below .500 on their trip through Milwaukee and San Diego and showed few signs of emerging from that downward spiral.
"We have to do better," manager Mickey Callaway said. "What we're doing right now is just not acceptable. … We're disappointed and we have to start getting after it."
And yet, as several of them said afterward in a quiet postgame clubhouse, things could be worse. The next few weeks will be telling for the Mets, both internally -- they have some impactful decisions to make -- and within the scope of the National League East.
As the Mets left the West Coast on Wednesday afternoon, upset about their play and determined to do better, they did so amid a flurry of questions:
How will the Mets modify their roster?
After this latest loss, Callaway admitted that the team, which optioned Dominic Smith to Triple-A Syracuse last week, missed having a left-handed bat on its bench. In Smith’s place, Todd Frazier struck out to leave two men in scoring position in the seventh inning, and Tomas Nido fanned to strand two more in the ninth -- both against right-handed pitchers.
Nido’s strikeout was notable in that Callaway chose to stick with him over starting catcher Wilson Ramos, who was healthy and available. The manager said it was a credit to Nido, who homered and singled earlier in the game. Unsaid was that it was also an acknowledgement of Ramos’ struggles -- a .120/.185/.160 slash line in his last seven games.
The other bench player to receive an at-bat in the loss was Keon Broxton, who grounded into a double play in the fifth.
Was it his final act as a Met? With Jed Lowrie due back from the injured list this weekend, the team must figure out whose roster spot he will take. The candidates include:
• J.D. Davis, who has accessible Minor League options, but has easily outperformed the other three on this list. Optioning Davis would fly in the face of general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s mission of carrying the 25 best players at all times.
• Broxton, who is in a 1-for-22 slump and batting .152 overall. Should the Mets cut Broxton, they would risk losing him on a waiver claim -- an issue worth considering, given that he’s under team control for three more seasons. They would also lose their fastest bench player and a potential plus defender. But Broxton’s hitting woes have not helped his case, and the Mets have a ready-made replacement available at Syracuse in veteran Carlos Gomez.
• Adeiny Hechavarria, a premium defender who will struggle to see playing time with Lowrie on board, but who would also have to clear waivers to go back to the Minors.
• Frazier, who is in a 2-for-31 skid, but is owed the balance of his $9 million salary -- a sunk cost, but a cost nonetheless.
While designating Hechavarria would be the path of least resistance, that doesn’t mean the Mets will ignore their other options.
“Right now, I’m not producing,” Frazier said. “We all know that. It’s something that is part of the game. I know I’ll be back, for sure.”
Will there be a scapegoat?
Despite some grumbles from a rabid fan base, a mid-May coaching shakeup seems unlikely. The Mets’ issues extend well beyond Callaway, who has seen the number of trusted options on the back half of his roster dwindle. Callaway cannot make a left-handed bat materialize on his bench any more than he can make the middle of his order -- Robinson Canó, Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto were 0-for-11 on Wednesday -- hit.
Still, for as long as the Mets are struggling (and for as long as bench coach Jim Riggleman, a multi-time interim manager, is in uniform), whispers will circle around Callaway. Such is the nature of managing in New York.
Outside of Callaway, other scapegoats seem even more far-fetched. The Mets wouldn’t hire hitting coach Chili Davis just to fire him six weeks into the season, nor would they dispatch Dave Eiland after the pitching coach helped take Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler to the next level last season. At least in the short term, it doesn’t appear major changes are imminent.
Can the Mets capitalize on a soft schedule?
If the Mets took a silver lining with them out of San Diego, it was this -- their upcoming schedule is in their favor. Next up is a three-game homestand against the last-place Marlins, followed by road series in Washington and Miami, then another homestand vs. the Nationals and Tigers.
Although Anthony Rendon is back from the injured list and Juan Soto is soon to follow, the Mets will still catch Washington with several of its regulars sidelined. For as much as the Mets have struggled, the Nationals have done so even more.
For the Mets, that’s the brightest silver lining of all. Despite everything, the top four teams in the NL East remain stacked together. After their loss Wednesday, the Mets stood just 4 1/2 games back of the first-place Phillies.
“We’re relatively in a decent place, 4 1/2 out playing the baseball that we have been playing,” Conforto said. “We know that it’s not who we are as a team. Being 4 1/2 games back is not so bad. So we’ve got to start taking advantage of the opportunities that the other teams in this division are giving us, start playing better baseball and start climbing back in there.”