NEW YORK — When Josh Ullman signed up for a New York Mets membership during the 2022 MLB playoffs, the Dutchess County, N.Y., resident had the “full expectation” that his favorite team would be going just as far this season.
The 53-year-old felt much differently as he took on batting practice before the Mets’ Monday series opener with the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field.
“It’s very disappointing from that level,” Ullman said. “I understand there’s a business side to everything and I fully agree with and understand the trading away of (David) Robertson and (Mark) Canha and (Eduardo) Escobar and all of those players that are on the expiring contracts.
“I don’t fully understand every side of it, but they’re giving up a lot of money. We have to hope and expect that we want to put a team out there that’s going to want to compete and expect to compete.”
The Mets were a very different team Monday night when they returned home from a six-game road trip, which began in Kansas City on the trade deadline. After trading away David Robertson, Mark Canha, and Max Scherzer during the team’s final series in July, the list of departures grew to include Justin Verlander, Tommy Pham, and Dominic Leone.
As the Mets front office, led by general manager Billy Eppler and owners Steve and Alex Cohen, altered its course, a six-game losing streak followed soon after with a pair of three-game sweeps at the hands of the Royals and Orioles.
And Mets fans, like Copiague, N.Y., resident Chris Krafczek, are coming to terms with that pivot.
“It’s been a frustrating year, in general. My heart says, ‘How do you give up?’ but my head says, ‘This team wasn’t winning anyway,’” Krafczek said. “So because they weren’t winning anyway, Steve did everything he could to assure that it’s not going to be an extended run of losing.”
‘Just end the season
With a 50-61 record and a lineup in flux, the Mets’ playoff chances shriveled to 1.4 percent entering Monday night.
Nur Boyd, 26, of the Bronx, thinks that record signals a time to see the next generation of Mets players over the final two months.
“Taking a step back, evaluating who you have right now, who’s gonna be here next year, and making sure, especially, our younger guys get the at-bats and the time they need,” Boyd said.
For Krafczek, he sees more risk down the line in the 2023 season. For the younger players in the Mets organization, he doesn’t want poor performance to lead to fading confidence.
“Just end the season. Nobody gets hurt. We don’t want any ACLs,” Krafczek said. “If Alonso hits a ground ball too short and doesn’t bust it out of the box, I don’t care. I want Lindor to be healthy for Opening Day next year. There’s nothing else to see from this year.”
Looking ahead to 2024
Ben Weil, 38, of Forest Hills, N.Y., has some concerns that the trades of Scherzer and Verlander sent a signal about next season.
“You signed Verlander on a two-year contract for two years. He’s coming off a Cy Young. I think the potential is there for next year,” Weil said. “Scherzer had a year left. All these guys would have come off contracts next year anyway. Who knows how the prospects are going to turn out? We’ll see.”
After the deadline, Cohen said he does not expect to spend at the same level as this past offseason when he set a record with a $366 million payroll.
But there continue to be voids in the starting rotation, outfield, and bullpen that need to be addressed.
“You can find a hitter when you need one,” said Jeff Rathgeber, 53, of Garden City, N.Y. “You can never find a pitcher when you need one. We need aces. It’ll come. (Cohen’s) shown he’ll spend. That’s all any fan has the right to ask for, and he’s delivered so far.”
And there’s one prominent name on every fan’s wish list: Shohei Ohtani.
“If we’re going to say goodbye to big names as we did, it’s not a dealbreaker for me, but I certainly hope that we’re clearing out some space like that to make a monster offer for Ohtani,” Rathgeber said. “Ohtani has to come to New York. Dude, are you kidding me? Ohtani in New York! This place, oh my god, imagine what we would see if Ohtani’s here.”
All eyes are on Pete Alonso
One of the major question marks for the Mets moving forward is how they will handle All-Star first baseman Pete Alonso, who will be in his final year of team control in 2024.
“I hope that the Cohens had a sitdown with Alonso and he’s happy and that we could sign him to be a lifetime Met,” Ullman said. “It would be nice to see that. You look at our career home run leaders, our career whatever, it’s not that good.”
Some fans, like Krafczek, are hoping for a modest deal for Alonso, alluding to several 10-year deals that have not worked out in the past, while others, like Weil, are hoping the team will do what they can to keep Alonso.
“I don’t think you can sign him to a 10-year deal,” Krafczek said. “We’ve seen that those just don’t work anywhere. They never work. It doesn’t matter who it is. It never works.”
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NY Mets fans react to trade deadline deals of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander