Going Through The Motions Of A Long Season. But What If…

An article by posted on July 19, 2009
It’s strange what a difference four months can make. In March, we were filled with optimism. Our big concern coming into 2009 was avoiding a 3rd straight September collapse. We hoped for the best and were anticipating an enjoyable season in our new stadium. Our huge Achilles heel was solved when Omar Minaya went out and signed Frankie Rodriguez and closer J. J. Putz to be Frankie’s set-up man. Yes indeed, 2009 was filled with promise.
However, reality has set in. There have been missed bases, dropped fly balls and balks galore. And our team is resembling a MASH unit. Our big power hitter, Carlos Delgado, has just 94 AB’s and 23 RBI’s. Jose Reyes, our spark, has 11 SB’s. John Maine, who we wait for year in and year out to have that break-out season, has made just 11 starts. The $36 million man, Oliver Perez, has only 7 starts under his belt and an ERA at 7.99. Mike Pelfrey, slotted in our #2 spot, has an ERA over 5.00. Injuries have destroyed this team. How bad is our offense? Gary Sheffield, who was signed to be a utility player and big bat off the bench, has found himself playing every day–and batting clean-up. That is until the rigors of playing so much have caught up to his 40 year old body. Our hitting is so anemic that Carlos Beltran, who hasn’t played in a month, is still 2nd on the team in RBI’s. Over the last 4 seasons, David Wright has averaged 29 HR’s and 112 RBI’s. This season, David is on pace for 10 HR’s and 89 RBI’s. We all hoped that perhaps the All-Star Break would reignite something but that has not happened either. We have lost 3 of the 4 games getting outscored 24-9. We are now taking the same approach as fans in Pittsburgh, Washington and Kansas City. We are simply going through the motions of playing baseball with very little cause for optimism.
There has been plenty of finger pointing this season. David Wright has been accused of not being a team leader. However, maybe it’s simply not in his make-up. Perhaps, our beloved 3rd baseman will spend his career like a Carlos Beltran, a quiet leader, rather then a Derek Jeter. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Many fans are ready to crucify Omar. Yes, our GM has made his share of bad moves. But no GM is perfect and I feel that his positives far outweigh his negatives. Had someone told us five years ago that perennial All-Stars like Delgado, Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez and Johan Santana would be wearing Mets uniforms, we’d be clamoring for Omar’s name to be on the new stadium. Many have pointed a finger (which finger I’ll let you decide) at Fred Wilpon. In some ways, I think criticism of the Wilpons is fair. However, we do have the 3rd highest payroll in the majors and a wonderful new stadium as well (although I feel the Ebbets Field façade is more of a personal nature for himself than for us.) This brings me to Jerry Manuel.

In all fairness to our skipper, I don’t think any manager in baseball history could overcome the injuries he’s had to deal with. Remove 3 of the best 4 players from any team and you’re sure to see them struggle. Connie Mack, John McGraw or Casey Stengel would not be able to overcome the loss of a lead-off hitter, the biggest HR threat and your all-around best player. That being said, however, it’s not just that the Mets are losing. They are losing in an embarrassing fashion. They are playing totally uninspired baseball. You wont see basic fundamentals in a Mets game. And that’s where I think Manuel is faltering badly. Losing is one thing. But losing in such a listless, indifferent way is something different.

We Mets fans have had far more losing seasons then winning seasons. It is becoming an effort to watch our team play. When we have the lead we are fearful that the bullpen or a bone-headed play will relinquish the lead. And once we fall behind this team has consistently displayed an inability to fight from behind. They appear to give up. They go down without a fight. In my opinion that is what makes this season so painful.

None of us have any idea what it’s like to be a major league manager. We cant imagine dealing with 25 different personalities, many earning more then you are. What bothers me about our skipper is that he does not seem to instill confidence, the desire to win. With Beltran, Reyes, and Delgado going down there is no way to make up for that. However, this should be used as a chance for others to step forward, to shine. In 1969, many of the lesser known players had a huge role in that championship season. Back-ups like Kenny Boswell, Art Shamsky and J C Martin stepped up. In 86, Davey Johnson got the most out of reserve players like Lenny Dykstra and Kevin Mitchell. In 2000, Bobby Valentine did more with less then any manager in Mets history and we fell in love with the hard-nosed play of Joe McEwing, Jay Payton, Timo Perez and Benny Agbayani. Even as recent as 2006, players like Endy Chavez and Jose Valentin rose to the occasion and did what Willie Randolph asked of them. I just don’t see Jerry Manuel instilling that same ‘team’ feeling.

I know my fellow Mets fans will heed the battle cry of Tug McGraw. And yes, I still do believe. But it’s time to face facts. We all love the Mets and the reasons are as varied as our fan base. In 69, we won 38 of our last 49 games. In 73, we won 21 of our last 29 games. In 86, we came out of the gate going 20-4 and never looked back. Unfortunately, I don’t see the 09 Mets even coming close to a streak like that. With a little over 2 months of baseball ahead of us, we are simply going through the motions of what seems like an endless 162 game schedule.

All this being said, however, if there’s one team in Baseball that can get on a roll, one team that can start to win, one team that can start moving up in the standings and make the rest of the NL pay attention, it is our Mets. If the Braves or the Phillies go on a winning streak, no one notices. But if the ghosts of miracles past should step to the forefront, the Phillies will start looking over their shoulder. Will 2009 be another miracle? No. But on the other hand, just imagine ‘What If…’

 

 

 

About the Author ()

A Mets fan since 1973, Rob was born in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Luckily, his parents moved to Queens at a young age so he was not scarred by pinstripes. Currently living in Las Vegas, he writes crime fiction and mysteries.

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