Jeff McNeil
Beating up on the Mets is easy. Praising Jeff McNeil isn’t but it needs to be done #LGM (Michael Owens/Getty Images)

It’s really easy to beat up on the Mets today. They enter Wednesday, May 22nd at 22-25. The NL East is slowly turning into a two horse race between the Phillies and Braves. The Mets are the clear third team and better turn it around fast.

The media started really piling on the Mets after Yoenis Cespedes broke his ankles in a freak ranch accident. Again, that’s the easy thing to do. One media analyst I’m really starting to hate is Jeff Passan. That was his column this week. How the Mets are a mess. Passan has become a tired act. That’s a lot of issues with his article but I don’t have time to bury that pathetic human being again. The truth is the Mets are cursed. It doesn’t matter who puts on the uniform, this franchise will find ways to disappoint on an annual basis.

Again, that’s the easy thing to do. Talk about how the Mets are a mess. Now let’s talk about what the media should talk about. Cespedes wasn’t going to play this year anyway. He had heel surgery. The broken ankles mean nothing as crazy as that is to say. Cespedes was never going to help the Mets in 2019 anyway. Probably will never help them again.

The number one thing people SHOULD be talking about with the Mets is a man who is called squirrel. Who? Jeff McNeil, of course, is the man I’m speaking about. Sure, the guy is ugly. Sure, the guy truly looks like a squirrel. Baseball has a funny way of reminding you that talent comes in many forms. Jeff McNeil isn’t just a really good player, he’s the most valuable asset the Mets have.

As crazy as it is to say, McNeil wasn’t even safe on the roster coming into 2019. I have no idea why but Brodie Van Wagenen had some crazy ideas. McNeil was almost dealt in the Robinson Cano / Edwin Diaz trade but instead, the package was built around minor leaguers. Again, I could bring up how BVW has made terrible decisions. I’m not going to do that. I want to talk about how god damn good Jeff McNeil is.

Jeff McNeil does one thing better than 99 percent of baseball. He puts bats on balls. That’s the entire name of the game. Shouldn’t that matter more than anything else? McNeil has hit at every level of his professional career. During McNeil’s trip through the minors, he never hit below .292 in any given season. That year came way back in 2014 as a 22-year-old. In 2018, the Mets utility man spent time in AA, AAA, and the Majors. In 57 games in AA, McNeil hit .327. In 31 AAA games, he hit .368. In 57 games with the Mets, he hit .333. In an era where sluggers strike out constantly and fail to reach base, McNeil is quite the breath of fresh air.

McNeil is off to a hot start in 2019 too. In 46 games, McNeil has a batting line of .333/.418/.461. His OPS+ is 147 which means he is 47 percent better than league average. A 1.7 WAR number this early in the season is nothing to take lightly either. I haven’t even gotten to the juicy parts. McNeil only strikes out roughly 10 percent of the time. League average sits around 22 percent. McNeil has also posted a weighted runs created + mark of 146. His 2018 number was 138. That was the highest of any 2nd baseman in 2018.

Jeff McNeil was never a top 100 prospect. Nobody knows what position he is supposed to play. He’s not pleasant to look at. Nothing about him athletically screams star ball player. When you think of the top infielders in the sports, McNeil is never discussed. I know what McNeil does really well… GET ON BASE. He doesn’t just get on base, he hits for a high average, and rarely strikes out. Do you know what else? He only makes $575 thousand in 2019.

For a sport that is struggling to create action and balls in play, McNeil should be considered a superstar. For whatever reason, nobody treats him like one. It’s time we start recognizing that Jeff McNeil is a superstar. The Mets most important piece is a dorky looking infielder and it’s time to start acknowledging it. Beat up on the Mets all you want today. All I know is McNeil is one of the most important building blocks the sport has to offer.