Given the centrality of health-care in the current political debates and the key role injuries played in the New York Mets logging yet another disappointing year into the history books, assessing the condition of the Mets heading into 2010 in terms of diagnosis is only appropriate.
Similar to the 2003 Mets, who came into the season with a core of All-Stars (Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughan, Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine, Al Leiter) and high expectations, the Amazin’s of ’09 took a terrible tumble down the standings in the NL East.
However, unlike the 2003 Mets, these Mets have a core under the leadership David Wright, J. Reyes, C. Beltran, and J. Santana that can bounce back and contend next year.
While a total turnaround is possible with their current cast of characters, such resurgence in the standings would be probable if General Manager Omar Minaya can sign a solid supporting cast.
Make no mistake, the current prognosis of the Mets is, like J. Reyes hurting hamstring, unclear.
Even if Omar manages to make the everyone in Queens’s dreams come, if fate is as brutal to the Mets in 2010 (say if Johan’s elbow acts up or Reyes’s hamstring holds him out of the lineup for a prolonged period) as it was in 2009, there hopes of topping the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins is highly unlikely.
That being said, this is my perception of the symptoms that lead to the Mets’ undoing in 2009 (in order of importance):
Symptom 1: Fouled Spark Plug
Hamstrung Reyes: As goes Jose, go the Mets. 2009 proved when Reyes doesn’t get in the lineup, the Mets don’t get in the playoffs. Thanks to a nagging hammy, Jose was limited to only 36 games.
Reyes is an impact player, period. From his rifle arm at short to the mayhem he creates on the base path, his presence was sorely missed, The Mets were at a real disadvantage when he went down.
Symptom 2: The Back (of the Rotation) Pain
Pelfreyegression: After winning 13 games and posting a sub-4 ERA in ’08, Big Pelf was primed for stardom as the Mets stalwart No. 2 right-hander behind Johan, or so the Mets hoped. Instead the 6’7’’ sinker-baller’s performance sunk well below expectations, with an ERA north of 5 and a WHIP of 1.51.
Ollie being Ollie: The Mets handed Oliver Perez a three-year, $36 million contract going into the year expecting of repeat of his 2007 stats (15 wins, 3.56ERA, 174 K’s). Due to injury, Perez did not make 15 starts in 2009, nonetheless earn 15 wins.
When he did play Perez proved that his inconsistency is the most consistent thing about him putting up an ugly 6.82 ERA, 1.92WHIP, and a Walk to Strike of ratio of 58:62.
Maine Problems: After pitching 50 less innings in 2008 than 2007, shoulder problems limited Maine to a mere 81.3 innings in 2009.
Minor Pains: Niese showed signs of life when he was called up only to go down with cringe-provoking hamstring injury.
Symptom 3: PDI (Power Deficiency In-Order)
Absence of Bona fide Cleanup Hitter: The presence of Carlos Delgado and his 38 HR/115 RBI from 2008 were sorely missed by the Mets after he went down in May with a hip injury.
Observers of the ’09 less-than-Amazin’s noted how at time the Mets seemed more like a AAA team than a major league club.
This was most evident in the band of has-beens the Mets were forced to put into their No. 4 slot at different points in the season.
On multiple occasions, Fernando Tatis and Gary Sheffield as well as the underperforming youngster Daniel Murphy were the “big bat” in the middle of the order.
David Wright and Citi Field: I put Wright’s HR decline and Citi Field’s pitcher-friendly dimensions together, because it should be obvious to anyone looks at Wright’s three-year average home run totals: 30, that the new ballpark had to have gotten in David’s head.
Beltran's Bum Knee: After averaging 33.6 HR’s between 2006-2008, Beltran touched ‘em all only 10 times in 2009. Carlos’s lowest HR total since 2000 was due, in part, to missing 2.5 months due to a bone bruise on his right knee.
Failed Experiment in LF : New York went into the season hoping get 20+HR production out of their left field spot by platooning Sheffield and Murphy.
Sheffield, although playing well when he did, seldom made it on the field. Delgado’s injury forced Murphy to play first most of the season.
By season's end, Angel Pagan settled into the LF spot (after the return of Beltran). While Pagan was one of the undeniable bright spots for the Mets in 2009, he was (and is) certainly not a power threat.
Symptom 4: Bullpen Wobble Behind K-Rod and Feliciano
Absence Solid Set-Up Man : Clearly leading the Mets collapse in 2008, Minaya revamped the bullpen signing not one, but two, closers to end games in Queens.
Francisco Rodriguez lived up to expectations, but expected set-up man J.J. Putz faltered then found himself on the disabled list for most of the season.
Feliciano pitched well...pretty much every day (earning the nickname Perpetual Pedro), in pretty much every role he was thrown into. Despite, Pedro’s success, he is not a set-up man. He has always been best suited as a lefty-specialist (which his splits confirm).
Seventh-Inning Stud : Bobby Parnell excelled in this position for most of the year, but as holes in the rotation forced to him start, a void emerged.
This concludes my diagnosis of the symptoms that led to the Metsies latest disappointing season. In Part 2, I will give my prognosis of Mets currently, their strengths and weakness. In Part 3, I will offer my prescription for the Amazin’s rebound in 2010.