OPINION: Stern: Baby Amazins proving key to Mets' success

New York Mets
Photo credit Jim McIsaac / Stringer / Getty Images

Part of what made the "Back to the Future" movie franchise so successful is that it gave people a glimpse of what a futuristic society might look like. And although flying cars have yet come to fruition, people enjoy theorizing about what the next couple decades could bring. After the Mets' recent call-ups of youngsters Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos, baseball fans are discovering what the franchise could be capable of with a new-look core.

While team owner Steve Cohen entered the picture in November 2020 ready to spend money, an emphasis on player growth evidently remained a priority. After shelling out a combined $114 million to veteran pitchers Carlos Carrasco, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Jose Quintana -- all of whom have battled injuries -- getting production out of youngsters and flattening the all-important learning curve for position players became that much more important.

Having progressed through the bottom of the franchise's farm system in 2019, to the majors in September 2022, both Baty and Alvarez have become poster children for the concept of fast improvement and rapid results at each step of their journey. Additionally, Vientos steadily moved up since being drafted 59th overall in 2017. While lofty expectations can weigh some guys down, internally, this young trio's ability to stay locked-in has paid dividends.

"The one thing they all have in common is a very detailed process on how to improve," Mets director of player development Kevin Howard told CBS Sports Radio. "Their daily work is purposeful -- it's very attentive to detail. And when your mind and thoughts are consumed around specifics of how to get better, it takes a lot of the pressure off."

The focus on improvement -- and controlling the controllable -- is part of the overlying philosophy to help players eliminate outside noise about when they should be ready. Organizationally, New York invests heavily in prospects from the day they're added to the ballclub. While not everyone will develop into an everyday player in the majors, grooming guys to progress through the system from Day 1 has been an effective strategy.

For most prospects drafted out of high school or college -- or signed as free agents in the league's international pool, like Alvarez -- they lack knowledge on what it takes to go through the grind of pro ball. And, in addition to facing a higher level of competition, they have to determine the habits and routines that'll make them successful.

New York Mets
Photo credit Al Bello / Staff / Getty Images

"It's important to have a structure about what these guys will learn when their foot steps in the door," Howard said. “There's very foundational principles we teach and believe, as far as controlling the strike zone -- as far as striking first with the pitchers. Developing your pitchers, making sure you have an arsenal that can get people out."

After losing four consecutive series to the inferior Tigers, Rockies, Reds, and Nationals in early May, the Mets appeared destined for another disappointing stretch that could derail their long-term goals and expectations. But by taking two of three from the acclaimed Rays and sweeping the Guardians in back-to-back series, the Mets' young bats have propelled them back to respectability and to a point where they could continue to ascend in the NL East race.

Of course, New York's journey won't come without hurdles along the way for the youngsters. Baty and Alvarez have endured slumps already, while Vientos is only 2-for-11 at the plate since being promoted. However, glimpses of what they're capable of are enough to provide hope and energize a fanbase that's become restless, waiting for the superstars to carry the load. As journeymen like Starling Marte, Tommy Pham, and Mark Canha search for a magical touch once again, the spark of the Mets' youth movement can't be underestimated.

"When you have young, hungry guys it does bring a different kind of energy to a team," Howard explained. "That's what they've done so far, and will continue to do that."

If both the Rays and Dodgers have provided a template, the biggest takeaway should be that player development is paramount to sustaining winning results. Although a steady combination of free agents and homegrown talent make up their big league rosters, investing in minor league talent has yielded success.

Doc Brown and Marty McFly struggled with a handful of decisions they made while time-traveling in "Back to the Future." But, it doesn't appear these Mets will live with any regret after allowing Baby Amazins to take over in Queens.

Jack Stern is a columnist, anchor, and associate producer for CBS Sports Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @J_Stern97.

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