The New York Mets find themselves in a rather messy predicament at the halfway mark of the 2009 season. As of now, one of baseball’s highest paid teams sits three games below .500 with a 39-42 record which is good for third place in the National League East behind the bargain basement Florida Marlins and the rival Philadelphia Phillies.
This is hardly the kind of performance that management could’ve expected in the offseason after the team acquired superstars, Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez and J.J. Putz.
While there is certainly a lot of baseball left to be played in the season, as of now there is no sunshine for Mets fans, who have had a dark cloud held over their heads ever since the conclusion of the 2006 season.
Obviously, New York fans are always quick to blame someone for their team’s struggles and this year there is plenty of blame to go around.
The amount of injuries that have plagued the Mets this season has been astronomical. Three out of their four top players (Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado) have all been out for over a month and there is no telling when any of them will be back in a Mets uniform. Two fifths of the starting pitching staff is disabled as well. This Wednesday Oliver Perez will throw his first big league pitch in over two months following a grueling battle with knee tendinitis.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for John Maine, who suffered a major setback with pain in his surgically repaired shoulder and only just recently was cleared to throw.
Then there is J.J. Putz, whom the Mets envisioned as being the player to shut down the opposition in the eighth inning. Shockingly, Putz failed to deliver. In 29 appearances with the Mets, he posted a down right terrible 5.22 ERA and was charged with four losses.
Anyone familiar with Putz and his tenure with the Mariners knew something was wrong. Midseason it was discovered that Putz would require elbow surgery that will keep him out of action until at least August.
Playing the role of manager is no easy task in itself. However, playing the role of manager in the city that never sleeps takes the game to the next level.
From the moment Jerry took the jump from bench coach to manager he has had a target placed on his back by both the fans and the media. It is understandable as the team has suffered two back-to-back collapses as well as a disappointing playoff lose in 2006.
While I am not the biggest fan of Jerry’s antics at times, I think he’s trying to take a step in the right direction. He certainly shows more heart and emotion on the field than his predecessor Willie Randolph did. Also, at the moment Jerry is being handed a lineup card filled with many players that belong in Buffalo.
Still a team’s performance is a reflection of the manager and when a team, like the Mets, is underperforming that reflects poorly on the manager.
Believe it or not, I believe a majority of the blame falls on the shoulders of Omar Minaya, and rightfully so. Granted he assembled an All-Star caliber team, however in doing so he neglected a key component in any championship team.
That component is depth. Minaya relied too heavily on Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy’s success from last season to carry over. Unfortunately it did not. Both players are hitting below .250 and neither appears to be improving. Unfortunately when taking a statistical look at things this isn’t all that surprising.
Murphy hit .290 in his minor league career (957 ABs), which is by no means poor, but it isn’t a guarantee that his success would translate over into the big leagues. Neither was the .313 batting average he compiled with the big league club in 131 at bats last year.
Another critical mistake by Minaya was his unwillingness to sign free agent second basemen Orlando Hudson, who did not command an unreasonable contract and on numerous occasions stated his desire to be a Met.
Rather Minaya stuck with Luis Castillo, the second basemen he signed to a ridiculous four year deal, and was rewarded with little improvement and about a quarter of the run production that Hudson has driven in.
In reality, as entertaining as it is to point fingers at certain people, the reality is there is no one person or thing to blame this disappointing first half. The only thing Mets fans can do is patiently wait out the storm and hope that once healthy their star players can pick up where they left off.