I know that we’re only 12 games into the season. I know that today’s date is April 21, 2009 and “it’s only April.” I know that there are 150 games left to play before the season ends on Sunday, October 4, 2009 against the Houston Astros at Citi Field. I also know so far this season the Mets have not been able to hit with runners in scoring position. In Sunday’s game against the Brewers the Mets were 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position. I also know so far this season the Mets are 25 for 106 with runners in scoring position. I also know that this problem the Mets have with not being able to hit with runners in scoring position is not something new for the 2009 season. It does not go back to the 2008 season but to the 2nd half of the 2007 season. In 2007 the bullpen was overused and exhausted by the time the season ended and contributed to the collapse of the 2007 season. Last year the bullpen was downright horrible and that caused another September collapse. With all the trouble the bullpen had, the injuries to starters Pedro Martinez and John Maine and the inconsistent starts of Oliver Perez the starting lineup and it’s problems were overlooked by a lot of fans and writers.
The 2006 lineup was known for it’s clutch performances. The lineup was given opportunities and they took advantage of most of those opportunities. The team would not die. They were down they would find a way to get the game close and then win it. With the 2006 lineup you knew that there was a good chance that the Mets were going to stage a comeback. Did they always comeback and win? No, of course not, but they were always in the game. One game in 2006 comes to mind is the game where Carlos Delgado hit his 400th Homerun against the Cardinals. The Mets were down 7-1 after Pujols hit a 3 run homer in the 4th and then in the 5th he unloaded the bases with a grand slam. In the bottom of the 5th the Mets loaded the bases and Carlos Delgado promptly unloaded the bases with a grand slam of his own which was also his 400th homerun. The Mets battled back and in the bottom of the ninth inning Carlos Beltran was up, Paul Lo Duca was on second base, Beltran hits the ball out to right field for a homerun and the Mets won the ball game. That was one instance of the Mets lineup not giving up, fighting back and being clutch when they needed to be. Entering 2007 the Mets lineup was still clutch, maybe not as much as in 2006 but they were still scoring runs when they had the opportunities. Then the all-star break comes and there is a change. The lineup has suddenly lost the ability to hit in the clutch situations. Delgado was in a dreaded season long slump that didn’t show an end in sight. In September 2007, the month of the collapse the lineup was not hitting except for Moises Alou and David Wright. Jose Reyes had a horrible September in 2007, but so did most of the Mets lineup. I asked myself what changed during the all-star break? How did the Mets lineup go from being clutch to not being clutch? The answer is a promotion of 1st base coach Howard “HoJo” Johnson to hitting coach.
Growing up as Mets fan “HoJo” was one of my favorite players. I always looked forward to seeing him hit, hoping to see him hit a homerun when I was at Shea and to see the apple rise. I remember defending him when he wasn’t able to hit in 1992 and 1993 that I actually got into fights with friends who ragged on him as he was my favorite player. I was saddened to see him leave the Mets in 1994 for the Rockies. I think I was even more saddened to see him attempt a comeback in 1997 with the Mets that ultimately led to his retirement. In 2002 I was happy to hear that he took the job as the hitting coach and then the next year he became the manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones. I went to a few games that year just to see him. When he was promoted to AAA to coach future Mets batters I was thrilled. Afterall HoJo is 3rd on the Mets all time homerun lists as well as second in steals and doubles for the Mets. The future looked bright. I thought that HoJo being promoted to the majors as the 1st base coached was a good fit given his ability to steal bases. After the all-star break in 2007 HoJo became the hitting coach for the Mets and I thought that was going to make the Mets the best offensive team in baseball. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.
The lineup while hitting good as individuals under HoJo are not hitting well as a team. They have left too many runners on base since he took over the job. HoJo’s job is to get these guys to hit and drive in runs. There needs to be a change to the Mets offense. There were free agents available this season that would added to the lineup and taken the pressure off of David Wright but the Mets decided not to go that way. The organization felt that the lineup which did score the 2nd most runs in the league was good enough this season. Since the Mets didn’t make a player change, I believe they might need a new hitting coach. The lineup needs to start hitting with runners in scoring position otherwise we are not going to make the playoffs. The rotation has not been solid except for Johan Santana but aside from one bad start from Oliver Perez and one bad start from John Maine the rotation has kept the Mets in the game. The bullpen is certainly not the problem this year. It’s the offense and that is HoJo’s job. I certainly don’t take any pleasure in this blog for replacing HoJo but I want to win. I’m sure HoJo is doing everything he can to get these guys to hit in the clutch but as of Sunday afternoon that isn’t good enough. The Mets are leaving 10 men on base per game. Something needs to change and fast otherwise we are going to be watching other teams in the playoffs instead of our New York Mets.
I hope to hear from other fans whether they agree with me or think I’m way off in suggesting the Mets fire HoJo. Do you think that there is something else the Mets can do in order to improve the way the Mets hit with runners in scoring position? Just keep in mind I’m a fan of HoJo’s but I also want to see the Mets score more than 2 or 3 runs per game.