Miraculously Maladroit Mets

Louis WebbCorrespondent IMay 1, 2008

The New York Metropolitans are a pretty amazin' team. I'm sure the 11-16 Pittsburgh Pirates were as amazed as the next person at their good fortune yesterday as they cruised to a 13-1 victory.

The funny thing is, I wasn't all that surprised. On my way to Shea on Tuesday, I was thinking about how the Mets, with Santana at the helm, should steamroll the last-place Pirates (who are launching what shows every indication of being their 16th consecutive losing season, tying the Philadelphia Phillies for the all-time record for consecutive seasons under the .500 mark).

But somehow, I knew this was not going to happen. Over the past few years, the Mets have found many ways to defy statistics, predictions and conventions—and not in a good way.

In 2007, the Mets won 47 times on the road (best in the NL), while losing 34, but only posted a 41-40 record at home. This is very strange considering that most teams play significantly better at home than away (as well as disappointing to fans like yours truly who attend 15+ Mets home games a year).

They had a team batting average of .275, which was tied for second in the league, but they had some problems taking advantage of opportunities. With a runner on third and less than two outs, the Mets brought that runner home 42 percent of the time—laughable compared to the league average of 86 percent of the time.

Most teams hit worse in the so-called "clutch," but the Mets' average with runners in scoring position with two outs was five points lower than the league average, and the chance they brought in a run similarly sub-par. I'm not implying that there's some sort of problem Mets hitters have in the clutch; it could just be bad luck. I don't place that much importance on RISP stats, even over the course of an entire season.

It is still interesting, though, that a team with the second-best batting average, and that scored a good deal of runs, would put up such numbers; it suggests that they had the opportunity to score even more runs, a first-in-the-league type number of runs. 

Instead they hung onto the division until their infamously awful September, when they were surpassed by the surging Phillies (who have a total payroll that is 30 percent less than the Mets).

Basically, the whole team loves to fail in creative ways, and splitting two games with the Pirates while being outscored 17-6, and making four errors, is about normal for the Miracle Mets.

Don't get me wrong: I love the team. As a die-hard fan, I take all this resistance to success in stride. To be honest, I don't even feel like I have a choice. I grew up in Brooklyn supporting them. I couldn't just abandon them, or switch to an entirely different team. Sometimes, though, I look at a club like the Braves (who have always been an antagonist to my hometown heroes), and wonder if the Mets will ever enjoy the kind of consistent success Atlanta did during the '90s and former half of this decade.

Fourteen-consecutive division titles is a little much to aspire to, but the Mets have never managed even two in a row. Including their wild-card wins, they've never made it to the postseason three years running.

From a microcosmic view, we also see isolated Mets successes. Two weeks ago, we won five in a row and last weekend we beat the Braves' pair of aces. This doesn't stop us from being behind the Marlins, who finished in last place in '07.

I feel that the Mets have the depth and talent to be a series contender—in our division, in our league, in baseball—but they need to learn consistency. Let's face it: they're streaky. They alternate between being red hot and ice cold, faster than you can keep up with.

As an avid fan, I'm always caught between our early 2006 road-trip to the West Coast (taking two of three from the Dodgers, sweeping the Diamondbacks in a four game set, and returning to the East to take three of three from the Phillies at Citizen's Bank Park) and a mid-2007 road trip we took (losing three of four to the Tigers, getting swept by the Dodgers in L.A., and then returning East to Yankee Stadium to lose two of three there).

I know baseball is an inconsistent sport, where teams go up and down all the time, and even the best of clubs don't always win. In fact, winning 60 percent of the time is reckoned impressive. That doesn't stop dynasties from evolving, like the Braves or Yankees in the '90s. The Mets need to take some notes from such teams, so they can start a little dynasty of their own.

Ever oscillating between enervation and energy,