Decimated by Injuries, Poor Play, and Lack of Depth but Somehow Still Alive
Omar Minaya can continue to preach to the media about his club 'having the chips' to swing a major deal in the next few weeks to revive his fluttering franchise.
The reality is—he doesn't. The rest of baseball is awaiting his futile call. The price for any player worth his salt will be astronomical. The reason? Other teams know the Mets are in trouble and will bend them over a barrel in any type of trade.
Before I rant on the litany of ills that have plagued this team and its millions of fans, let me list some of the strange, but true, facts. The Mets have painted themselves into a corner and at any moment seem to be on the verge of collapse. But for some odd reason, they haven't.
But Baseball is a funny business. You can be down one day, up the next. Enter the 2009 New York Mets. They get exposed by good teams and bad, yet manage to pick themselves up and keep on breathing.
As bad as things are, the team is only 1.5 games out of first place in the NL East and are right in the thick of the wild card race.
The Mets have the NL's top hitter in David Wright (.346), are second in the league in batting average (.273), on-base-percentage (.350) and with runners in scoring position (.283). They also have struck out the fewest times of any team in the majors (394).
Their bullpen problems have apparently been solved. Francisco Rodriguez is second in the majors with 20 saves. He has two blown saves, but he should have only one. The other was a result of a dropped pop-up at Yankee Stadium by Luis Castillo.
The rest of the pen has been basically reliable, too. This was the most glaring problem the franchise had the past few years and Minaya adroitly got it mended in the offseason.
The Mets have managed to stay afloat with stop-gap and fill-in players such as Jeremy Reed, Alex Cora, Nick Evans, Fernando Nieve, Tim Redding, Wilson Valdez, Ramon Martinez, Omir Santos and Argenis Reyes.
The team has been crushed by injuries. Two key pieces of the starting rotation—John Maine and Oliver Perez—are out indefinitely. Their eighth-inning specialist, JJ Putz, just had elbow surgery and may miss the remainder of the season.
In addition, Carlos Delgado, the team's primary power source, tore the labrum in his hip and is recovering from surgery. His return is also unknown. Jose Reyes, the Mets' catalyst and defensive centerpiece has a slight tear in his his hamstring and may make it back by the All-Star break.
To top it off, Gold-Glove CF Carlos Beltran was in the throes of one of his best offensive seasons ever when his aching knees sent him to the DL on June 22.
These five players are an integral part of the Mets' spine and their absence has exposed the team's soft underbelly. The depth they thought could carry them until the cavalry arrived doesn't seem to be adequate. The past two nights at Citi Field, the Yankees, who are experiencing drama of their own, walloped the the listless Mets 9-1 and 5-0. The latter saw the Mets held to one hit.
After treading water for a past two weeks, the Mets could be on the verge of a slow decent down the ladder of the NL East standings.
The way I hear it...that cavalry charge may not come. It is difficult to believe that Delgado will return. He just turned 37 this week and hip surgery is an intrusive procedure in which recovery periods vary. Alex Rodriguez managed to come back from his, but he's far from being the A-Rod we all know and love to boo.
Maine's shoulder is still sore. He's trying to work it out in the minors but optimism regarding a full and safe return to Flushing is fading. Perez has condition in his right knee that is being diagnosed as patellar tendinitis. It's anyone's guess what that exactly is and what can be done to rectify it.
The underground stories about Perez all point to his poor conditioning at the outset of the season. His participation in the World Baseball Classic allowed him to forgo his normal spring routine. He returned noticeably out of shape and nowhere near the pitcher the Mets shelled out $36 million for before the season. His return seems certain, but his new role may not be the one he's accustomed to.
Beltran's knees have been the Achilles Heel of the five-tool centerfielder's career. He has had both knees operated on the past few seasons and they are believed to be failing him again. He will return, but his legs are going fast—which is a shame.
The troubling issue of Jose Reyes' hamstring has resurfaced. The injury that sidelined him as a rookie is back with a vengeance. Reyes has not yet begun running, which has to be concerning the Mets' brass.
All of these situations have drawn questions about the competence of the Mets' conditioning and medical personnel. This is now far past the coincidence stage and into the accountability territory. The Mets have not made any public statements regarding this issue, but they will have to face the music on this soon.
Omar Minaya, who is hamstrung himself with the Mets needing so much outside help, may be in his last semester as Mets' GM. He has hit gold with several bold strokes, but most of them were during the offseason. He has yet to make a significant move during a season to positively affect the club. It is widely known he deals from the monetary strength of the Wilpons, which by the way, is not what it once was.
His trade for JJ Putz, Sean Green and Jeremy Reed in the off-season was originally deemed a success. Now, it has been discovered that Putz was damaged goods and suddenly it appears that Minaya's deal was not the coup the public though it was.
Going forward, the Mets will have little to offer in trades to entice a trading partner to surrender a star to them. Minaya will have to rely on what his office has wrought, which is not a whole lot.
The Phillies will solve their pitching woes to the degree of playing .550 ball the rest of the way, which is far better than the Mets can hope to do. The Marlins and Braves might pass the Mets before the whole shooting match is over.
Then it will be decision time. Not for Minaya—as others on this site seem to think. But for the Wilpons, who after taking a beating financially, will wrest the wheel from Omar and go down a different road.
In the interim, the Mets can take of some business to take them into the future. They can ditch Jerry Manuel, who has been losing points with many of the paying customers. His disciplinary tactics are nil and his game tactics are void. A manager should be able to manage ANY type of group, regardless of industry. I don't see one iota of intelligent and informed leadership out of Manuel or any of his coaches.
They can also Jeterize David Wright and make him the captain.
In addition, the Mets should give some youngsters a look. Let's face it, they are not going anywhere anytime soon so why not give the fans some players they root for.
Remember, the Mets are not the Yankees. Not winning the pennant is not a catastrophe. The Met fans just want a team they can root for and gives it their all.