This Just In: Mets Sign…..No One

Scrooged.jpgDoesn’t Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS seem like it took place a decade ago?  The Mets were THAT CLOSE to a World Series berth and potential championship after a magical season in which they dominated the NL the entire year.

Ever since Yadier Molina homered off Aaron Heilman and Carlos Beltran took strike 3 to end the series, it’s been a painful, downhill slide, with no end in sight.  When you fall off of a cliff, you have to hit rock bottom at some point, right?  But every time you think it can’t get any worse, or it can’t get more painful, it does. 

– A monumental 2007 collapse topped off with a “gem” by Tom Glavine.  Enough said about that season.

– A wacky 2008 which saw the Mets fire their manager in the middle of the night on the West Coast, rebound under Jerry Manuel to take over first place, only to finish off the season with yet another late-September collapse.

– The optimism surrounding a fresh start in a new ballpark for 2009 evaporating almost immediately.  It started with complaints about Citi Field – everything ranging from a lack of Mets presence to overpriced seats to obstructed views.  It then continued with injury after injury, loss after loss, with a Luis Castillo dropped pop-up in between.  Oh, and if an abysmal season wasn’t enough, the cherry on top: a Yankees-Phillies World Series.  C’mon, really?  You can’t make this stuff up.

Mets fans were ready to turn the page on ’09 in July, so with the Winter Meetings and Hot Stove, we clung to some hopes (or dreams) that Omar & the Wilpons would do something major – something to improve the club and give fans reason to be excited for 2010.  We should have known better.

Roy Halladay?  Nope – and worse, he goes to the Phillies!  John Lackey?  No thanks Mets, I’ll go to Boston.  Free agents are going off the board left and right, and what do the Mets have to show for themselves?  2 backup catchers and a backup middle infielder.  Nice!

Truth be told, the Mets need several pieces to become a true contender.  I actually don’t want to see Omar and the Mets overpay for Matt Holliday or Jason Bay just to make a splash.  I’m concerned that they’ll do just that – or give 3 years to Bengie Molina, or give Jason Marquis or Joel Piniero an Oliver Perez-like contract which they’ll be stuck with. 

I don’t know what the answers are.  But the most frustrating thing in all of this is that I have no confidence that the Mets’ management has a clue as to what the answers are, or that they even have a plan.  The Wilpons gave us a nice ballpark, but they don’t know a thing about running a baseball team.  Signing Omar Minaya to a 3 year extension BEFORE last season is proof enough of that.  Minaya doesn’t know how to put together a major league club, farm system, or talk to the media.  The only thing he does know how to do is overpay for free agents that other teams have no interest in (Perez, Castillo).

So what do we have to look forward to?  It’s hard to argue with the Daily News’ recent cover – the Mets are Scrooged.

Where’s Kelly Leak?

KellyLeak.jpgIn watching the Mets over the past week, it was hard not to think of the Bad News Bears.  In getting swept by the Yankees (something the Bears could relate to), the Mets were humiliated in every way imaginable.  Facing their Subway Series rivals for the first time at Citi Field, the Mets lost the series opener 9-1, committing 3 errors in the 2nd inning to take them out of the game almost immediately.  The next night, they didn’t commit any errors, but managed just one hit in getting shutout 5-0.  Finally, in the ESPN Sunday night game, the Mets were stymied by Chien-Ming Wang, who hadn’t won a game in about a year and had an ERA in the double digits.  To cap off the weekend, Francisco Rodriguez walked Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded, giving the greatest reliever in major league history his first major league RBI and helping to seal his 500th career save.

It would get worse.  After giving up 10 runs in the series opener to Milwaukee, the Mets turned to Johan Santana to stop the bleeding.  When David Wright homered in the first inning (yes, David Wright hit a home run!), you figured this had to be the Mets night.  Right?  Not quite.  After allowing a run in the 3rd inning, the Bears took the field in the 4th inning.  After walking the opposing pitcher, Santana gave up a fly ball to center field.  Rookie Fernando Martinez ran over in plenty of time, but tried to stop short to avoid overrunning the ball.  He slipped and fell face first, allowing the ball to drop for a double.  After another walk, Santana got ahead of Ryan Braun 0-2 before Braun launched a change up over Gary Sheffield’s head in LF.  2 runs scored easily.  The Mets had a chance to gun down JJ Hardy at the plate, but the throw skipped past Omir Santos.  Braun rounded 3rd base a bit too aggressively, and Santana, backing up the plate, fired towards third.  “Towards third” was actually about 20 feet over David Wright’s head, and Braun scored easily as the ball bounced into left field. 

5 losses in a row – 5 UGLY losses in a row.  Amazingly, after winning the next 2 games to get back to .500, the Mets find themselves only a game out of first place.  They have a big series coming up with the Phillies, and a good showing in Philly could find them heading home in first.  Let’s just hope the Mets don’t resummon memories of Tanner, Lupus, and the rest of the Bears gang again.

Jikes! Johan Pummeled in Rubber Match

Well, that was a great game, huh?  I knew it was over as soon as the Mets failed to score in the top of the 3rd after loading the bases with no out.  It was only 4-0 then, but the way AJ Burnett was dealing, and the way the Yankees wee swinging the bats, I expected this to end up a Mets defeat.  What I DIDN’T expect was the 9 run explosion by the Yankees in the 4th inning, in the worst outing of Johan Santana’s career.

johan.jpgI’m not crushed by losing a series to the Yankees.  I’d love to see the Mets whip the Yankees, sure, but the hype around the Subway Series has faded.  I was much more disappointed with losing a series to the Phillies than I am now.  However, as a Mets fan, you have to be concerned about the state of Johan Santana.  Is he hurt?  Is he just going through a “dead arm” period?  Or is he just actually human and going through a rough stretch?

I hope it’s the latter.  He was ridiculously good in April and for most of May, with an ERA below 1.00 for a long time.  His W-L record was nowhere near what it should have been thanks to a lack of run support and some poor defense behind him.  But he’s been increasingly shaky his last 4 starts.  In his last start, he allowed 4 home runs to the Phillies, at Citi Field no less (if it had occurred at Citizens Bank Park, that would have been easily dismissed).  And now this.  Johan claims he is not hurt, and hopefully he’s telling the truth.  Maybe he needs to work out some kinks in his mechanics.  Maybe he needs to change up his between-starts routine a bit.  Maybe he needs an extra day or two off before his next start.  Let’s just hope we aren’t hearing about ANOTHER trip to the DL for a Mets player, because this is one player that they cannot afford to lose for any period of time.  Cross your fingers Mets fans.

Step Back From that Ledge, My Friends

Friday night was brutal.  Losing a game in the bottom of the 9th is bad enough.  Losing it after coming back late and then taking the lead against the best closer of all time adds salt to the wounds.  But to lose a game on a dropped pop up by the second baseman – a routine play that would have sealed a Mets victory, but instead allowed the tying and winning runs score for the Yankees?

The Mets have had their share of heartbreaking losses the past few years on the way to back-to-back collapses, and have seemed to invent new ways to lose this year (missing 3rd base when scoring the go ahead run?).  But that?  Did that really happen?  I’ve seen the replay about 10 times, and I still don’t believe it.

Oh, and this was coming off back-to-back losses to the Phillies in which the Mets had 7th inning leads, only to end up losing each in extra innings.  According to many frustrated Mets fans who took to message boards in the wake of the Debacle in the Bronx, it was all over.  Time to fire Omar, fire Manuel, dump half of the team.  I’ll admit, I had some of the same feelings in the immediate aftermath.  But then I looked at the big picture:

  • It’s June.
  • There are 100 games left in the season.
  • Losing to the Yankees sucks, but it’s not the World Series.  It’s just another game on the schedule.
  • The Phillies lost as well, so the Mets actually didn’t lose any games in the standings.
  • Despite a ridiculous string of injuries (Delgado, Reyes, Putz, Maine, Perez, Pagan), the Mets were just 4 games out of first place, and were over .500.
  • Maybe it’s good that a loss like this happens now, instead of in September.  Maybe the team can come together in the wake of a disaster like this, and be stronger for it.

There is no getting around how bad that loss was.  I’m sure the Citi faithful will remind Luis Castillo when the Mets return home.  But, it’s not over – not by a long shot.  Are the Mets going anywhere this year?  Probably not.  The Mets are a very flawed team, even without the injuries.  Their lineup has holes and their starting rotation is very thin (don’t count on Fernando Nieve to repeat Saturday’s performance).  If they are going to get to the playoffs and make some noise, Omar is going to need to make a few deals.

What I do know that the season is not over because they lost on Friday.  Things aren’t all of a sudden all better because they won today, either.  It’s a long season, with many ups and downs.  Friday just happened to be a big downer.   Step back from that ledge, my friends.   

Paging Dr. Minaya

Thumbnail image for minaya.jpgThe Mets are in trouble.  I think that’s pretty obvious to anyone who has seen the injury reports or the lineups that the Mets have been putting on the field on a nightly basis.  The Mets somehow survived a West Coast trip and a recent homestand with their makeshift roster, but after being swept by the Pirates and in danger of losing a series to the Nationals, it’s time to sound the alarm.

Jose Reyes is out anywhere from 1-3 months (wth a hamstring injury, you just never know).  Carlos Delgado is out until August or later.  JJ Putz is undergoing elbow surgery, and it looks like Billy Wagner might make it back to the team before he does (yikes).  As for the rotation, Oliver Perez is trying to rehab in the minors (take your time, Ollie), John Maine is still not 100% after surgery, Mike Pelfrey is inconsistent when he’s not balking, and Tim Redding is, well, Tim Redding.

Now is the time for Omar Minaya to do something.  I’m not sure what that something is, but that’s why he’s being paid to be the GM.  It will certainly be a challenge, especially for Omar.  When you look at his biggest moves at GM, his acquisitions have either been due to throwing money at free agents, or having players fall into his lap (Johan).  The Mets don’t have much of a minor league system to play with, but the flip side to that is almost no one should be untouchable.  I wouldn’t trade Fernando Martinez (yet), and I would hold onto Bobby Parnell.  Anyone else is fair game.  Daniel Murphy?  Love the guy, but he doesn’t have a position and now he’s struggling to hit.  Jon Niese?  See ya. 

To me, the Mets needs in order of priority are offense and starting pitching.  The Mets could use someone who plays the corner outfield and/or first base.  Could Lance Berkman be available?  He’s a switch hitter who can play first base or the outfield, and could provide some much needed power.  As for starting pitching, the Mets need a solid #2 or #3 type pitcher.  They have their ace for years to come, but they have a bunch of #4’s after Johan. 

I don’t know what Omar can pull off, but the Mets need more than a band aid.  The Mets need Omar to pull off some major surgery.  The way the Mets have been going down with injuries, maybe another surgery isn’t so far fetched.  Let’s hope he can come up with something, and fast, before this season slips away.

Omar, Mets Go Back to the Future

In case you missed it, the Mets announced two major acquisitions this afternoon.  Mets GM Omar Minaya revealed that the club had traded Carlos Delgado and Fernando Tatis from June 2008 in exchange for Carlos Delgado and Fernando Tatis from June 1999.  The trades were actually completed on June 30th, but the Mets held off on announcing them until after today’s trade deadline had passed, for fear other NL teams might try to pull off similar moves.

“We worked long and hard on these deals, and are pleased that we can finally reveal them publicly,” said Minaya.  “After I fired Willie (Randolph), I received a call from a longtime Mets fan who wanted to help us turn things around.  I was skeptical at first, but I think the results speak for themselves.”

dr.jpgThat fan, Emmett Brown, is now a Senior Advisor to the Mets GM, and he helped orchestrate the innovative moves.  “I had been playing out different scenarios in my head since last season’s collapse.  I knew I had a way to “exchange” two players from the past, but I had difficulty deciding who, and when, I should target.”

After carefully studying the roster, Brown discovered the monster years of several players in 1999.  At first, he had planned on targeting a position player (Delgado) and a pitcher (Pedro Martinez or Orlando Hernandez).  However, since players cannot be traded while on the DL, El Duque was out.  Brown and Minaya had issues striking a deal for Martinez with the 1999 Red Sox, and after Moises Alou and Ryan Church went down with injuries, the two decided that Tatis could help their outfield problem.

Details of how the swaps were actually completed are still vague, and many questions have yet to be answered.  But, the results of the acquisitions cannot be questioned, as the “old” Delgado and Tatis have paid immediate dividends.  Just look at the July stats of each player:

Carlos Delgado: .357 AVG, 9 HR, 24 RBI
Fernando Tatis: .397 AVG, 6 HR, 18 RBI

The Mets might not have made any traditional acquisitions at this year’s trade deadline, but the re-emergence of Delgado and Tatis have the Mets poised to make a run at the NL East.   Great Scott!

METamorphosis

Well, I’ll be honest.  If you told me a month ago that the Mets would be where they are now, and playing as well as they are now, I would have bet against it.  Luckily, I’m not a gambling man.  The Mets’ resurgence over the past few weeks has been quite impressive.  They are pitching well, getting timely hits (for the most part), and playing solid defense. 

After Tuesday night’s debacle to the Phillies, I thought this might all be coming to an end.  As I was watching the 9th inning of Tuesday’s game, I felt I had gone back in time to September 2007.  The way the loss unfolded – and the silence that filled Shea (after the boos, of course) – was reminiscent of last season’s collapse.  Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, with every worse-case scenario becoming a reality.  Were the good vibes from the Jerry Manuel era coming to an end?

Thumbnail image for mets1.jpgWe got our answer Wednesday and Thursday.  The Mets bounced back to win two close games to take the series from the Phillies, and jump into sole possession of first place.  Of course, it helped that their closer was back (not that Wagner has always been a sure thing).  But last year’s Mets would have crumbled and been swept by the Phils.  We’d be hearing Willie Randolph talk about how he believes in his guys and that they’d bounce back tomorrow, and then the next day.

There is a different vibe around this team now.  You get the sense that when the Mets take the field, they expect to win.  Lately, they’ve been doing just that.  We’ll see if they can keep it going.