Ranking the top 10 Mets stories of 2021

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Francisco Lindor Max Scherzer Jacob deGrom Steve Cohen treated art 2021
Francisco Lindor Max Scherzer Jacob deGrom Steve Cohen treated art 2021

It was a wild and transformative year for the Mets under new owner Steve Cohen.

Here are the Top 10 Mets stories of 2021...

10. Noah Syndergaard bolts Mets for Angels

After saying how grateful he would be for the Mets to even extend the one-year, qualifying offer to him, Syndergaard rejected the Mets' QO and left to join the Los Angeles Angels on a one-year deal worth $21 million.

Syndergaard, who noted at the end of the season that leaving the Mets would be a tough pill to swallow, said after signing with the Angels that part of his decision had to do with the uncertainty with the Mets' front office/manager search.

Syndergaard's camp also complained through the media that the Mets didn't contact him after offering him $18.4 million for one season after he missed almost all of 2020 and 2021 due to injury.

9. Failure to sign Kumar Rocker

After Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker fell to the Mets at No. 10 in the 2021 MLB Draft, it seemed they had lucked into a potential ace who could reach the majors quickly.

Instead, after being expected to give Rocker a $6 million signing bonus, which would've been well over slot, the Mets and Rocker's camp couldn't agree on a deal.

Kumar Rocker
Kumar Rocker

The failure to agree was due to a medical issue that is still shrouded in mystery, and the result was the Mets getting a compensation pick (at No. 11) in the 2022 MLB Draft.

8. Rat/Raccoon incident

This started as an incident between Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil in the dugout tunnel at Citi Field on May 7, over what the players claimed was an argument over whether they saw a rat or a raccoon.

At the time it was clear that wasn't the actual story.

SNY's Andy Martino later reported that there was an "aggressive" confrontation in the tunnel. In November, the New York Post added that Lindor had grabbed McNeil by the throat and pinned him against a wall due to defensive alignment issues between the two.

7. Thumbs Down fiasco

In August, Javier Baez, Lindor, and some other Mets began doing a "thumbs down" gesture that was later revealed to be something they were directing toward the booing fans at Citi Field.

Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez
Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez

The behavior was quickly condemned by team president Sandy Alderson, Lindor and Baez apologized, and the Mets actually got hot for a bit.

And as it turned out, the fallout from the incident actually helped endear Baez to the Mets, who strongly considered re-signing him before he inked a deal with the Detroit Tigers.

6. Javier Baez acquired at trade deadline

With the Mets badly in need of offensive help at the deadline, they swung a last-second deal with the Chicago Cubs for Baez, parting with prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong.

Unfortunately for the Mets, Baez's torrid performance with the Mets could not rescue the team from a second-half swoon that saw them tumble from first place to out of contention by the third week of September.

Still, Baez left a mark during his time in Queens. And it should be noted that he can opt out of his deal with the Tigers in two years.

5. Luis Rojas out, Buck Showalter in

While Rojas made some curious in-game moves in 2021, he continued to establish himself as a strong communicator, someone who was accountable, and as a reliable face of the franchise in front of the media.

Luis Rojas
Luis Rojas

But the Mets' off-field issues and on-field performance were too much for Rojas to overcome, and his contract was not renewed after the season.

In Rojas' place in 2022 will be Showalter, an elite tactician with decades of experience who has managed in New York before.

4. Front office shakeup

After hiring Jared Porter to be GM in December of 2020, Porter was fired in January after it was revealed that he sent unsolicited, sexually explicit texts to a female reporter while an employee of the Chicago Cubs.

Porter was replaced on an interim basis by Zack Scott, who appeared on track to potentially take over full time before he was arrested on suspicion of DUI during the season and let go after the season.

Following the decision to move on from Scott, the Mets went after Theo Epstein, Billy Beane, and David Stearns (who wasn't allowed to interview) before tabbing Billy Eppler, who started shaking things up soon after his arrival.

3. Trade for and extension of Francisco Lindor

The Mets shook the baseball world in January when they swung a trade with Cleveland that brought Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to Queens.

Mets SS Francisco Lindor
Mets SS Francisco Lindor

Adding Lindor was one of the biggest moves in the history of the franchise, and the Mets doubled down right before Opening Day by signing him to a 10-year extension worth $341 million.

While Lindor's Mets career at the plate started off slow, he soon became the Lindor he always had been, slashing .253/.342/.480 with 16 homers, 11 doubles, and 51 RBI in 78 games from June 2 through the end of the season.

2. Jacob deGrom's brilliant year ends due to injury

Heading into the All-Star break, the Mets were in first place and were being paced by an otherworldly version of deGrom who was having one of the best seasons in the history of the sport.

DeGrom entered the break with a 1.08 ERA (1.24 FIP) and 0.55 WHIP with 146 strikeouts in 92 innings over 15 starts. But he didn't take the mound at all in the second half due to an elbow issue.

DeGrom's health will be an enormous story to follow at spring training, but the biggest story will be the arrival of the pitcher the Mets recently got to pair with him.

1. Free agent frenzy culminates with Max Scherzer signing

Toward the end of November, a few days after teams began scooping up free agents with the lockout looming, Mets fans were losing their collective minds because Steven Matz jilted the Mets for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Would anyone want to play for the Mets and owner Steve Cohen? The concern was absurd at the time and looks even funnier in retrospect, after the Mets signed -- in order -- Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and Scherzer (who inked a three-year deal worth $130 million).

With Scherzer on board, the Mets have announced themselves as a free agent destination. And if deGrom is healthy, New York's 1-2 punch atop the rotation will be a sight to see.