By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
» More Columns
I can’t believe I’m writing these words.
I mean, can you? This last month-and-a-half has been a dream, so I guess nothing surprises me anymore.
I’m about to eat plenty of crow, and I couldn’t be happier to do it. For more than a year I’ve been criticizing Mets general manager Sandy Alderson — and rightly so, I believe — for his inaction.
All of my frustration and anger boiled over on July 7, when I wrote that the GM needs to be fired if the Mets miss the playoffs again.
A little more than two weeks later, Alderson began to engineer one of the greatest turnarounds in — dare I say — baseball history.
First he called up top prospect Michael Conforto, who has exceeded all expectations. Then he traded for steady, versatile veterans in Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.
Three days later he acquired a bridge to closer Jeurys Familia in right-hander Tyler Clippard.
After the trade that wasn’t, Alderson hit the jackpot. He brought Yoenis Céspedes to the Mets at the eleventh hour, shocking the baseball world and sticking a much-needed power bat in the middle of New York’s lineup.
Not to be overlooked, Alderson traded for former closer Addison Reed to be the seventh-inning man on Aug. 30.
Those shrewd moves, coupled with the returns of David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud, have transformed the Mets from a light-hitting club with excellent starting pitching to one of the deepest, most talented teams in baseball.
Not too long ago, John Mayberry, Jr. was your cleanup hitter. Think about that!
Now, the Mets have a who’s who of quality players sitting on their bench. Michael Cuddyer — their most high-profile signing of the offseason — Johnson, Uribe and Juan Lagares are now used as pinch-hitters, spot starters and defensive replacements.
Could you have possibly fathomed that in July?! Those guys are not good enough to start for the Mets?! Truly unbelievable.
The results speak for themselves. The Amazin’s went 20-8 in August and are 10-4 in September. They hold an unthinkable 8 1/2-game lead over the Nationals in the National League East.
Clippard and Reed have made the bullpen much more dependable, while Johnson and Uribe have given manager Terry Collins plenty of options.
And then there is Cespedes, who’s been the best player in the sport since arriving in Queens. We all knew he was good, but nobody could have ever imagined that he would be this good.
The Cuban slugger is playing like Mays, and adding an element of excitement that Mets fans haven’t felt since Jose Reyes donned the blue and orange. In 42 games with New York, the 29-year-old is batting .302 with 17 homers, 10 doubles and 42 RBIs. He also plays a quality center field and has an arm like Clemente.
Cespedes won’t play 60 regular-season games for the Mets, yet he’ll get some NL MVP votes. That tells you all you need to know.
Nobody could have seen this coming. And if you say that you did, you’re lying. History told us that Alderson and the Wilpons would stand pat — or do very little — at the trade deadline and let yet another season slip away.
But the “Baseball Maverick” finally lived up to his reputation and went for the kill. He pounced on opportunity after opportunity and turned the Mets into a juggernaut, almost overnight.
Maybe this was part of his plan all along. Maybe it wasn’t, and he realized that he could no longer sit on his hands. Either way, Alderson deserves a world of credit for turning this team into a force to be reckoned with.
He fooled all of us. Every single one of us. And every Mets fan under the sun is thrilled that Sandy made a fool of him.
Barring a collapse that would make the end of 2007 look like a stroll in the park, the Mets will return to the postseason for the first time since 2006.
The GM can sit back, relax and watch with a smile what he created.
Brad Kallet is an editor and columnist for CBSNewYork.com. He has written for TENNIS.com, MLB.com and SMASH Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet.