Who would have thought that the New York Mets pitching staff would be the strongest part of the team, while the hitting staff would be the weakest?
Saturday, April 17 against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets hitting staff was shut down until the top of the 19th inning when Jose Reyes scored a run on a sacrifice fly against a position player converted to pitcher during the game. All regular relievers were already used up in the Cardinals bullpen, and the only pitchers available were starters.
Cardinals coach Tony La Russa decided not to bring in any of his starting pitchers to continue the game, so he elected to use position players to do the pitching. This decision eventually cost him the game, considering the fact that the Mets hitters could not hit a ball outside the St Louis infield if their lives depended on it.
The Mets hitting staff could not even score a run against Felipe Lopez, the Cardinals third baseman who took over the pitching duties, temporarily relinquishing his third base position in the top of the 18th inning.
This is how dreadful the Mets batters were. Even Jason Bay could not buy a hit to save his life. He went something like 0-for- 7 and was only afforded the chance to reach first base when he was struck on the hand by Joseph Mather (infielder and outfielder), another position player converted to pitcher in the middle of the game.
With his teammates standing on top of the dugout watching every pitch hurled by the third baseman, who won the three-game series opener with a grand slam the night before, Felipe Lopez pitched a scoreless 18th inning. His Cardinals teammates, jumping up and down, smacking high fives all over the dugout, roared when he entered the dugout allowing no runs and one hit to the hapless Mets hitting staff.
Every Mets fan in the stadium and at home must have been thinking that this could be the worst loss ever in the history of the Mets franchise if the team happens to lose this game. Luckily however, the worst did not happen, and the Mets came away with a 2-1 win over the Cardinals in the 20th inning.
When the season started, every Mets fan was saying that the front office did not do much to make the pitching staff better. Indeed, Mets fans are correct in their claim because the team really did not sign any big-name pitchers. They only added minor league pitchers from their farm system in Jonathan Niese, Jenrry Mejia, and Fernando Nieve, and borrowed Raul Valdes from the Mexican League.
The team also signed two Japanese pitchers (Ryota Igarashi and Hisanori Takahashi) who are currently in the bullpen along with Mejia and Nieve, while Niese is in the starting rotation at the No. 5 spot.
With these unproven pitchers on the staff, Mets fans had good reason to believe that pitching would be the downfall of the New York Mets team. But no, this is so far from the truth, the pitching staff is proving everybody wrong.
Apart from John Maine’s lousy starts, pitching poorly in his first two games, the pitching staff is proving to be the strongest part of the team, especially the bullpen that have allowed fewer runs in the Majors than most bullpens have, the first couple of games in the season.
It is therefore surprising to see that hitting is the weak link on the Mets team. In fact, the Mets front office did a lot more in the off season to make the hitting staff better than they did for the pitching staff. The team signed Jason Bay to a $66 million a year guaranteed contract. Many would say that he does not deserve all that money because he has been a bust so far.
The veteran ex-Red Sox slugger, who batted .267 with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs last year with the Sox, has not done anything in the past 10 games to disprove such claim, stats provided by ESPN. Hopefully, he will come around soon for the sake of Mets fans!
Jose Reyes, who is coming off calf surgery, has not fared better either. In fact, his situation is a little different because he is coming off an injury and a bout of thyroid illness. It is obvious that he is not the same player he once was. In fact, he does not run as fast as he used to run before the surgery, and his batting average has suffered greatly in his return, batting a measly 0.171 for the season so far, stats provided by ESPN.
All in all, the Mets look more like a rebuilding team trying to be competitive while it goes through the rebuilding process. Who is to be blamed for this? It is certainly not the fault of the manager, Jerry Manuel. If anything, it is the fault of Omar Minaya for firing Willie Randolph, the only manager to have taken the Mets to the playoff in recent memory.
After Willie Randolph was fired by Minaya, the team went from bad to worse, losing more than 50 percent of its games last season, although many of the starters were decimated with injuries—Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Carlos Delgado, to name a few.
Jerry Manuel is a very good coach. However, the jury is still out on him. Many Mets fans say he is not tough enough. One of the main reasons for this is because there was an incident including Jose Reyes and Jerry Manuel, days after Willie Randolph was fired, when Manuel came to the infield to remove Reyes from the game after the manager saw the shortstop sustain an injury on an infield play.
Well, when Manuel approached Reyes, putting his hands around the shortstop to tell him that he would like him to leave the game because he did not want to take any chances of having the player injure himself further, Reyes initially refused to leave the game, shrugging his shoulders with a vigorous frown and walking away from his new manager. Ever since that incident, Mets fans have accused the amusing manager of being soft.
On the other hand, Willie Randolph was hated by some of the players. Some claimed that Willie was too pompous, talking down to them and at times being very rigid and robotic, never showing a smile. No wonder they were winning games! A good leader is never friends with his/her employees. An outstanding leader is in a leadership position to lead, not to make friends.
So, here we are again, waiting and hoping that the Mets start winning some games, so Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya can keep their jobs. In fact, changing to a new regime by firing the General Manager and the Manager is not the answer to solving the Mets problems.
The answer is putting the best baseball players on the field. So, the New York Mets can have the best chance of winning, which will make all Mets fans happy, and that starts with signing some good hitters! We saw that the pitching staff is not bad after all—shutting down the St Louis Cardinals for 20 innings while the hitting staff struggled to get a hit against position players converted to pitchers!
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Glenford S Robinson is a Clinical Lab Scientist, Expert Author, and President of MSTARDOM, INC.