Where do the Mets go from here after getting swept by the rival Braves in Atlanta?

Tribune Content Agency

PITTSBURGH — The Mets have suffered a lot of comically bad losses throughout franchise history. They’ve been handed ugly losses and heartbreaking losses. They’ve also fielded blatantly bad teams that played blatantly bad baseball.

But even those teams never did what the 2023 Mets did this week in Atlanta when they had leads of at least three or more runs three nights in a row, only to blow them and lose each night.

This was the first time in franchise history the Mets have accomplished that feat, and to make matters worse, it resulted in a sweep by the Braves, who are spending much less.

The Mets are heading into a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday at PNC Park at 30-33, which leaves them 8 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East. Even worse, the team is likely to lose Pete Alonso to the injured list. Buck Showalter’s decision to defer to Billy Eppler when asked about the results of Alonso’s MRI on Thursday was some ominous foretelling. The general manager doesn’t typically talk about injuries if there is nothing to talk about.

Fans want blood. They’re pointing fingers and laying blame and they’re upset that Showalter and Eppler aren’t doing the same.

So, what happens next? Let’s try to unpack these questions.

Blame game

Showalter has made some questionable in-game management decisions and has continued to stick with struggling players in the lineup. But the manager can only play the players he is given, and it sounds as if some of his autonomy has been taken away.

When pressed about the choice to continue to use DH Daniel Vogelbach instead of rookie infielder Mark Vientos, Showalter talked about “projections” and other information provided to him by the front office. Reading between the lines, that probably means that Eppler and his analytics team had a say in the decision, which isn’t uncommon in today’s game.

This is Eppler’s roster. It was his decision not to add a bigger bat over the winter. It was his decision not to add another reliever after Edwin Diaz went down during the World Baseball Classic. Consider the fact that Atlanta was able to use closer Raisel Iglesias in the 10th inning Thursday night while the Mets used Tommy Hunter. The game didn’t come down to how Showalter managed his bullpen, it came down to better personnel in the Braves’ bullpen.

Eppler built a lineup built on length, failing to account for what would happen if hitters did not get on base. The Mets are scoring 4.40 runs per game, which is 16th in MLB, and hitting .238 with runners in scoring position, tied for 22nd.

There is probably plenty of blame to go around, but it’s Steve Cohen’s job to decide who takes the fall and to decide if anyone needs to in the first place.

Fire sale

It’s not uncommon for a team to part ways with a head coach or manager during the season, only for the new guy to turn things around.

Last season, the Philadelphia Phillies fired Joe Girardi after 51 games and replaced him with interim manager Rob Thomson. They went on to reach the World Series. The Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt in January 2016 and his replacement, Tyronn Lue, coached them to a championship. The Los Angeles Kings fired head coach Terry Murray in 2011 and replaced him with Darryl Sutter before going on to win the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup championship.

However, that doesn’t mean the Mets would have the same success. They don’t have a natural replacement internally to replace Showalter or Eppler. The Mets brought them on to help stabilize the operation after years of mismanagement from the clubhouse to the front office.

Only two years ago, the Mets were embroiled in multiple investigations into the organizational culture. The thumbs-down incident would never happen under Showalter’s watch. Firing one, or both of the two figureheads would only sow chaos at a time when things are relatively stable, despite the record on the field.

What’s next

There is no easy solution to fixing the Mets at this point in the season. Eppler’s track record at the trade deadline doesn’t inspire confidence either, but just because he went small last year doesn’t mean he’ll do the same this year.

They could bring up hot-hitting Ronny Mauricio to try and spark the offense, but he can’t pitch the ninth inning. Plus, if they’re not going to play the rookies every day, then why bother?

Reworking the bullpen would be a good step. The Mets probably don’t need three mop-up guys, but they could use another left-hander.

The only thing the Mets can do next is go out and play.

“It’s not a fun stretch to go through. It’s not how you envision things going,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo. “But your only option is to keep pushing and push through it, and put a lot of hope in that, tomorrow, you’re going to turn things around.”