After a disappointing 2020, the NY Mets are left figuring out how to take the next stepSeptember 27, 2020 11:16pm

Sept. 27-- WASHINGTON-We won't spend much time on Sunday's game.

The Mets were not playing for anything, and you could tell-weird as it may seem, considering the Nationals were in the same spot. Washington obliterated New York, 15-5, mercifully ending the Mets' season.

Ugly as this game may have been, it's meaningless. Looking forward is all that can be done.

The Mets went 26-34 in this 60-game season. They tied with the Nationals for last place in the National League East. New York is in competition for MLB's Most Disappointing Team, even if they don't formally hand out a plaque for it.

Disappointing. Shocking. Frustrating. Fans will use many different adjectives to describe this season.

The Mets seemingly have a bright future. They have a young core of position players and an ace. Their bullpen, at times, seemed improved.

But they must reach the next level. Obviously, they are not content with falling games short of the postseason.

But how can they avoid this same fate next season?

That's the question they'll face over the coming months.

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Are the issues fixable?

This is the key topic.

Some struggling teams might take some time to turn the corner. Others could be better as soon as next season.

Fortunately for the Mets, they are probably the latter.

They have a young core-Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, etc.-that should only improve. They have an ace in Jacob deGrom. Their bullpen, at times, seemed improved.

Plus, Andres Gimenez emerged as the potential shortstop of the future. Smith had a breakout season. Conforto put together a monster year.

There is talent here.

The Mets must fix their rotation, though. Behind deGrom and David Peterson, their starters were inconsistent.

Perhaps they re-sign Marcus Stroman. Maybe they trade for a starter or two.

Whatever it may be, a rotation that performs like this one did in 2020 won't carry a team into the postseason. It became a fatal issue.

The Mets might need to tinker with their bullpen, too. Justin Wilson will be a free agent. Dellin Betances has a player option for next season, as does Brad Brach. Jared Hughes is only signed to a one-year contract.

The rotation must be a focus, though. If you reflect on the second half of 2020, when the Mets made a fierce run toward the postseason, they relief on quality starts from their starting pitching. It made games easier for the rest of the team.

The offense often struggled with runners in scoring position. The timely hit often eluded these Mets. But with the talent in the lineup, it would be surprising if that occurred again, to this degree, over 162 games in 2021.

The main issue was a rotation that often offered poor starts, short starts or both at the same time.

The Mets, if they properly address their issues this season, can reach the postseason next season. They're not in a total rebuild.

At the same time, they must actually improve their roster.

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Is the weird season an excuse?

As stunning as this result may be for the Mets, it might be important not to overreact to 2020. It was a season unlike any of its predecessors. It presented challenges we'll hopefully never see again.

In a short season, a good start and a sizable winning streak-or two-were imperative. The Mets accomplished neither. They ran out of time.

Who knows what would have happened if they had 102 more games? They might have fought back and heated up in the second half.

What did not help: The Mets had won three in a row before two members of the organization-one being catcher Tomas Nido-tested positive for coronavirus. The stoppage, players have said, hurt them because it occurred at a time when they felt they were coming into their own as a group.

Then again, every team knew it would be a condensed season. The injury bug hit most clubs hard. Some had COVID-19 positives. A few had coronavirus outbreaks.

The Mets should not make excuses. They were affected by the strange season, but so were others.

Still, it's probably best to be careful about using this season to predict the next.

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Wilpon era ends in ugly fashion

In the final game of the Wilpon era, the Mets were blown out. They looked exactly like a team running on fumes after being eliminated from postseason contention the day before.

It seemed fitting that the Mets' pitching never gave them a chance.

Seth Lugo allowed six earned runs over 1 1/3 innings, the second time this season he hasn't made it out of the second inning in a start.

In the third inning, Steven Matz walked into a bad situation-bases loaded, no outs-and made it worse, serving up a grand slam to Trea Turner. He then allowed a second home run before his outing ended. Matz, one of the Mets' most disappointing players this season, finished the season with a 9.68.

The Mets trailed by nine runs after three innings.

The Mets were already out of contention, but they closed the door on 2020 in the ugliest way possible.

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(c)2020 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

Visit The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) at www.NorthJersey.com

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