HM SchumanContributor IJuly 1, 2009

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 28:  (L-R) Former New York Mets players Lenny Dyksta, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Doc Gooden #16 and Keith Hernandez greet after the game against the Florida Marlins to commemorate the last regular season baseball game ever played in Shea Stadium on September 28, 2008 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets plan to start next season at their new stadium Citi Field after playing in Shea for over 44 years. (Photo by: Al Bello/Getty Images)


Well, it’s only June 20 and the Mets are just 2 games behind the Phillies. They were 7.5 games back last year. So, there’s no reason to panic, right? Wrong. It is definitely time to panic and I’ll tell you why. With the Mets current injury plagued roster, this team simply has no room for error. When they lose a game 3-2, you might say they played well, they played tough, it was a close game. But what it’s hard to realize is that had the team been a full strength, that game might have been an easy 6-3 win. When Luis Castillo made that devestating drop of a pop fly against the Yankees, it cost the Mets the win. But the Mets lost on that pop up because KRod was protecting a one run lead. What if the Mets had Delgado and Reyes in the lineup? Then maybe the Mets would have had a 3 or 4 run lead and they survive the dropped pop.

This is a team that is so hobbled by errors, they simply have no room for error. Johan Santana started the season looking virtually untouchable. Over his last 6 starts, he has been mediocre. That happens. Great pitchers have slumps too. But again, how much room for error do the Mets have when their ace is going through a bad stretch? Well, if Maine and Perez and Pelfrey are healthy and pitching well, it’s not a big problem. However, when you are virtually sending out three, count ‘em, three 5th starters in the rotation, Santana pitching like an ace becomes indispensable. How much room for error can you have when 60% of the rotation is Fernando Nieve, Tim Redding and Livan Hernandez. Now, I’m not knocking these guys, in fact, they are pitching great, but they are number 5 starters and that is gonna bite you in the butt in the long run.

Luckily for the Mets their playing with no room for error has not killed them - yet. That’s because of this: their chief division rivals, the Phillies, have their troubles too. They now have their closer Brad Lidge on the DL as well as their best hitter this year, free agent signee Raul Ibanez. And their starting pitching has been dreadful. The Phillies are playing sub .500 ball. Hard to put any space between you and the team chasing you when you go 4-8.

But again, with no room for error, when the Phillies do get hot - even if they just play .500 ball - the Mets are likely to fall further and further behind. By the time they get all their players back, it just might be too late. And the signs that anyone is getting to close to being ready to return are not positive. John Maine has a pinched nerve in his surgically repaired shoulder and will not be returning to the team when he is eligible to come off the disabled list next week. Oliver Perez is back on the mound pitching, but is far from ready to return to the rotation. He is now back on a 5 day rotation. He threw three innings on Thursday and will throw again on Tuesday. Jose Reyes is not even in Florida doing rehab yet. He might not be back till the ALL-Star break, if then. Carlos Delgado was never expected back until the end of July and J.J. Putz is probably gone till September. When you start your utility infielder at SS everyday, when you have 3 number 5 starters in the rotation, when you have a first base platoon that has produced one home run and a batting average well below the Mendoza line, you can’t win. And the reason you can’t win - you’ve left yourself no room for error. Is it their fault? No, it’s not. Injuries happen and sometimes they happen in bunches and sometimes they kill your chance to win. Check out the 1972 and 1987 Mets for evidence of that. Is it time to wait till next year? Is all hope lost? When you have to ask that question on June 20, the only thing left to do is lie to yourself! We’re gonna win this thing!

Now back to Sports Talk with Bill and Mike.