Are the New York Mets' Injuries Masking a Bigger Problem?

Joe FiorelloCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 23:  Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets stands on the field during batting practice against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field on June 23, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Reyes is still on the injured list.  (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

A lot of people, myself included, are giving the Mets somewhat of a pass for this abysmal season due to the $90 million on the disabled list.  It’s hard to find someone to blame (except maybe the trainers) when the team taking the field doesn’t even resemble the team that took the field at the beginning of the season.

The truth of the matter is, the Mets' injuries may be just what the doctor ordered for the organization.  It may be masking a failure that was coming anyway.

The pitching staff, save for Johan Santana who was pitching through injury for half the season, has completely underachieved.

Mike Pelfrey is the only pitcher in the original starting five that has an ERA under 5.0, and if he continues to pitch this season there’s no guarantee it will stay that way.

The fifth starter, a spot that may not have a lot of importance on a deep staff, should have been doubly important to the Mets, who went into the season with one ace and three number three starters.

The organization addressed the problem with a trio of over-the-hill or never-was starters, Livan Hernandez, Tim Redding and Freddy Garcia.  Garcia was cut in April, Hernandez was cut this month, and Redding is now the third starter due to injury.

I know you can’t plan for this many injuries, but my point is the starting rotation was weak before the season started.

There was only a small sample of how the team would fare if all their pieces were in place this year.

Carlos Delgado went on the DL on May 11.  The team had a .548 winning percentage with a 17-14 record.  Delgado’s bat is one the Mets haven’t been able to replace all season, as is evident by their glaring lack of power in the middle of the lineup.

By extrapolating that winning percentage out to today, and the Mets would be sitting in second place with a record of 70-57.  Sure it’s better than what they’ve got now, but they’d still be trailing the Phillies.

Jose Reyes went down 10 days later, but he was not exactly lighting the field on fire in his limited time before his injury.  He was only batting .279 with a .355 OBP in 36 games while swiping 11 bases.  Sure, it’s good production, but nothing to write home about.

Alex Cora’s numbers filling in at short stop were similar enough to make Reyes’ absence a little easier to deal with, and Angel Pagan’s emergence as a solid lead-off hitter made it even easier.

The Mets were able to stay somewhat competitive, staying at or around .500 ball, showing moments of greatness at times, until June 22.  That’s the date Carlos Beltran went on the DL.

The Mets were 35-33 at that point, but have consistently underperformed, going 22-37 since then.  Is this the fact that Beltran was such an integral part of the teams success?  Or was his injury the straw that broke the camel’s back?

His bat was on fire this season, and has been sorely missed.  He’s a true five tool player, and a nagging knee injury has threatened his career.  I hope we see him back at full strength next season, but it’s not definite.

In my humble opinion, the Mets at full strength may have made the playoffs, but they were never a championship caliber team.  They were likely not even the best team in the NL East, especially after the Phillies traded to get Cliff Lee.

The injuries are simply masking the problems that were there anyway, and may be there for years to come.

It’s been said that the Mets are on a budget for next season, so these problems may be here for a while.  One solution may be trading away some of the core players that we’ve grown to love so much in New York.  If I had to part with anyone, it would be Jose Reyes.

He’s a great defensive short stop, and a spark plug every time he takes the field, but he’s severely over rated as a lead off hitter.  Sure he steals a lot of bases, but that’s not the job of a lead off hitter, his job is purely to get on base.

Reyes has a career OBP of .337.  You don’t have to look far to find what I would consider a great lead off hitter, Derek Jeter.  Jeter has a career OBP of .387, and has put up one as high as .438.

The rest of the core, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, would all retire as Mets if I had any say.

I’ve been looking forward with hope for 2010, but the truth is, we may have a lot more disappointment in our near future.