Tracing the 10 Biggest Checkpoints of the 2012 New York Mets Collapse

Sam R. Quinn@SamQuinn_Senior Analyst IIISeptember 3, 2012

Tracing the 10 Biggest Checkpoints of the 2012 New York Mets Collapse

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    Collapses are something that New York Mets fans claim that they are accustomed to, but the pain of another lost season isn't something that just rolls off the shoulder.

    The Mets played exciting baseball during the first few months of the 2012 season, but have since fallen off, and now find themselves in fourth place in the National League East with a 64-70 record.

    This season's collapse is nowhere near as terrible as what transpired in 2007, as most predicted the team to finish in the cellar of the division.

    Here we will outline the 10 biggest checkpoints of yet another Mets' collapse. Some checkpoints are obvious turning points, while others are auxiliary to the poor results.

Swept by the New York Yankees, June 9

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    By now, the New York Mets are used to playing second fiddle to the New York Yankees. In what seems like an annual occurrence, the Mets lost the season series to the Yankees.

    The Mets were swept by their cross-town rivals in the series that began on June 9 when Johan Santana allowed six earned runs (four homers) in five innings. Prior to that meeting, the Mets were 10-6 in their last 16 games, and looked to be building up momentum with a month left to go before the All-Star break.

    Following the first series, the Mets began to play up-and-down baseball in its most sincere form. Terry Collins and Co. swept the Tampa Bay Rays, were swept by the Cincinnati Reds, then swept the Baltimore Orioles.

    Two tough, late-game losses in the final series of interleague play ensured that the Mets were, once again, the inferior team in New York.

    Those series losses weren't critical to the collapse of the team, but for one of the first times all season, the Mets looked like they wouldn't be able to bounce back and revert to their winning ways.

    If nothing else, serious questions began to come about regarding the bullpen's incompetence and the lack of potency in the lineup.

Frank Francisco’s Injury, June 23

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    Frank Francisco wasn't a dominant closer prior to being placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 23 after a save against the New York Yankees, but he was a better option than any other pitcher that Terry Collins could run out there late in the game.

    If you throw away the three straight poor appearances in mid-May, Francisco had blown just two saves all season. Sure, he was shaky, but he proved to be a much better closer than Bobby Parnell.

    Once Francisco went down, the bullpen's weaknesses became even more glaring, as Collins was forced to use Parnell in more crucial junctures in the game.

    The Mets' relief pitchers racked up a whopping three saves in July. The bullpen can't shoulder all the blame, as it was afforded only seven save opportunities that month, but Francisco's time on the disabled list added to a laundry list of problems in Flushing.

Lost 4-of-6 to the Cubs, June 25-27, July 6-8

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    The Chicago Cubs came to Citi Field with the worst record in the major leagues, but the New York Mets found a way to lose two-of-three to the most hapless team in baseball.

    It was bad enough to lose one series to the Cubs, but a second series loss was completely unacceptable. The debacle began as June turned into July, as the Mets were punchless at the plate and dreadful in the field.

    As the Mets finished the first half of the season on a low note, much of the baseball community began to realize that the Mets were in trouble after the All-Star break.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ Brutal June/July

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    Kirk Nieuwenhuis was a blessing for the New York Mets over the first few months of the season, but the holes in his game began to show themselves in July.

    Captain Kirk boasted a .301 average on the first day of June, but saw that number fall nearly 50 points to .252 by the time he was sent down to the minor leagues at the end of July.

    Nieuwenhuis' surprising play allowed Andres Torres to spend a little more time on the bench, as Terry Collins was forced to leave the young center fielder in the lineup every night.

    The strikeouts began to pile up while the number of quality at-bats dwindled, leaving Collins with no choice but to look elsewhere for production.

R.A. Dickey’s Four Straight Mediocre Starts, July 5-24

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    R.A. Dickey has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball this season, but from July 5 to July 24, the competition began to catch up to him.

    The knuckleballer's ERA fell to a season-low of 2.15 after he pitched eight innings of shutout ball against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 29, but the next month would not be kind to the Tennessee native.

    Over his next five starts, Dickey's season ERA ballooned to 2.97 after allowing 17 earned runs in 25.1 innings. 

    After the New York Mets had a pitcher who was able to act as a stopper every fifth day, Dickey's mediocre starts were crippling.

    Dickey would eventually recover and still remains in the Cy Young discussion, but his return to form was too late.

Johan Santana’s 17th Start, July 6

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    Johan Santana ensured that he would forever be remembered as one of the great New York Mets pitchers of all time by throwing a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1.

    Santana wasn't terrible following the no-hitter, as he finished June with a sub-three ERA for the season. Unfortunately, his dominance ended when spring turned to summer. 

    The two-time Cy Young winner made his 17th start of the season on July 6 against the Chicago Cubs, allowing seven earned runs on 13 hits in just 4.2 innings of work. Chicago was 18 games under .500 entering that game, which made Santana's struggles look even worse.

    Santana allowed at least six earned runs in each of his next four starts, and was unable to log more than five innings in any of them.

    His second-half ERA was a comical 16.33, which led to the organization to shut him down for the season.

David Wright Falls off Post-All-Star Break, July 13

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    David Wright thrust himself into the National League MVP conversation over the first three months of the season. The face of the New York Mets franchise rounded out the unofficial first half with a hearty .351 average, 11 homers, 59 RBI, 56 runs, 50 walks and just 47 strikeouts.

    He carried the team before the All-Star break, but once again we learned that all good things must come to an end.

    Wright played on an otherworldly level leading up the the All-Star break, but has seen his average fall nearly 40 points to .314. His .255 average in July and .272 average in August have been a huge factor in the Mets' demise.

    There is no way to blame the third baseman for the entire team's play, but everybody knew that he would have to be one of the best players in the league if the team was going to hang around.

Second-Half Swoon vs. National League East, July 13

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    The New York Mets played three of their first four series after the All-Star break against National League East opponents, a schedule that proved deadly for the team's playoff chances.

    The Mets were swept by the Atlanta Braves, lost two-of-three to the Washington Nationals, then dropped three in a row to the Nationals after being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    By posting a 1-8 record right out of the gate, the Mets made sure that they would have low morale and no confidence heading into the back end of the season.

    Since the All-Star break, the Mets have won just two series against division opponents, which came in the last two series against the Philadelphia Phillies and the Miami Marlins.

Jason Bay’s Return, July 17

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    There seems to be a direct correlation between Jason Bay's presence in the lineup and the New York Mets losing games.

    Bay came of the disabled list on July 17 against the Washington Nationals after missing nearly a month. The Mets lost 10 of the next 12 games.

    Again, it isn't reasonable to blame one player for the team's collapse, but Bay is an automatic out in the middle of the lineup. Over the last three seasons, he has proved that he is no longer a viable option for a major league team, yet his massive contract has allowed him to stick around.

    He hit .119 in July and .122 in August while being awarded a decent amount of at-bats. The collapse was already well underway, but Bay's return was a bad omen for the next two months of unwatchable baseball.

No Move at Trade Deadline, July 31

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    Sandy Alderson can't be vilified for his decision not to make a move at the trade deadline, as there was no reason to bring in reinforcements for a team that was going nowhere.

    After posting a 7-18 record in July, the New York Mets found themselves at 50-54 on the last day of the month, 12 games back of the Washington Nationals in the division and 9.5 out of the second wild-card spot.

    Alderson not making a move was a white flag for the season. His team had exceeded expectations for a long time, but had since come back to Earth when it mattered most.

    When the calendar turned to August, this Mets season was over. The pitchers regressed toward the norm, the hitters showed their true colors and the general sentiment was largely negative.

    Things have gotten much worse since the end of July, but the passing of the trade deadline allowed the fans to let go of the pipe dream and return to reality.