September 19, 2006. A long time ago in the life of a Mets fan. It was the day after the Mets clinched the NL East pennant, so the day certainly brings back fond memories for Met fans. But it has additional significance.
It was the last time the Mets played an insignificant game. And in order for the Mets to fix what is wrong with this team, we need to play more games like that one. The last two seasons came down to the last day of the season.
Every game was high pressure. Every game meant something. Every game was completely about winning today. And the Mets are paying for it.
Remember owner Fred Wilpon's goal is 'meaningful games in September'. Why? Because that ensures that fans will be in the seats all season. Take the team out of the pennant race, and fans stop coming.
He loses valuable revenue. So the last two seasons have been perfectly fine in that respect. Playoff games are nice, but not that important financially.
So one overriding reason why the Mets have continued to be the same flawed ballclub with little changes is due to the fact that the Wilpons see no financial benefit to making real change.
Now, if the team falls out of the race early, they will need to take another look at how they run the team. See my other article on why the Mets are flawed and how to fix it for more on this topic.
A second, huge, benefit is the ability to get the young players some time on the field in less pressurized situations. The only young player who has had some success over the last few years is Mike Pelfrey, and that was by accident.
Remember, he was going down to the minors in '08 before El Duque got hurt. Without that injury, he would probably still be on the shuttle back and forth between AAA and the majors, or be pitching for some other team.
Patience is something that is tough to have when you are in a pennant race, but necessary for young players to develop.
A 'meaningless' September would give Fernando Martinez, Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans and Jonathan Niese time to get their feet wet in the majors and develop in lower pressure situations.
The Mets also can assure these guys that they will be in the lineup everyday. The biggest issue these guys have now is that they know that an 0-4 will get them on the bench for 3-4 days.
Add in the adjustment to the big leagues and the pressures of the pennant race and it shouldn't surprise anyone that they are not performing.
A final less important benefit of the Mets dropping out of the race early this year is that the 'chokers' talk will die down.
The last two seasons have ended horribly, but time really does heal all wounds. A season that just peters out will put the focus on the problems on the field, not the issues in the heads of the Mets players.
The media capital of the world will find a story, no matter what, and it has got to be a part of the anxiety, pressing, and downright stupidity you see from the Mets on a daily basis.
In short, if the Mets are going to return to the World Series in 2010, they need a September to retool and re-evaluate their team.
That will only happen if they drop out of the race early. I hate to even type the words, but Let's Go Phils!