The first two weeks of the Met’ season is over and done with and the results are in: The Mets stink. So the question isn’t: “Is it too early to start firing people?” but rather: “Is it too late?” The Mets should have cleaned house after last season, but didn’t have the fortitude (or money?) to do so. After announcing how important it was to get off to a fast start, they lost the first three series of the season heading into St. Louis, and promptly lost that series, too. Omar Minaya is pleased, though, as the bar is set so low for this team that he stated if the Mets came away with one victory against the Cards he would be happy (I can’t remember where I saw that quote, otherwise I’d link to it). Saying one win is acceptable in a three-game series should be a fireable offense. Omar, your time is up.
The weekend started out promising. Oliver Perez was rock solid on Friday night, but the offense continued to struggle and the reliable-up-to-that-point bullpen coughed up the game. Bringing in Raul Valdes seemed like a curious choice at the time (Jerry Manuel makes many “curious choices,” though – can somebody please tell him that it’s not mandatory for him to bat the first baseman cleanup?), but we now know that Pedro Feliciano was feeling under the weather and was busy throwing up on Henry Blanco in the bullpen, so he wasn’t available. Of course, no matter how good the pitching is it’s always hard to win when you can only manage to score one run, and that run came on a base-running mistake by Jeff Francouer followed by a botched rundown by Albert Pujols.
And then there was the Saturday marathon. As the game went on, I was hoping it would make it into the 20-plus inning range – if the Mets can’t win at least they can be entertaining or historic. When Felipe Lopez took the mound, I thought, “Ok, the Cards are waving the white flag. The Mets will pile up some runs here and cruise to a win.” But when Blanco popped out, I had another, more terrifying thought, “Uh-oh, this is just one more chance for the Mets to be humiliated.” And even though they won the game, they could only scratch out two runs in three innings while facing position players on the mound. Kind of humiliating, I guess, but a win is a win at this point for the Mets. As Bob Murphy once said, “They win the damn thing.” And we saw the two managers treating the game differently. Manuel was managing for his life while Tony LaRussa had the luxury of being able to sacrifice this game for the big picture (or maybe he just didn’t care). Matt Holliday had to leave the game because of illness (after throwing up on Henry Blanco), but LaRussa putting the pitcher’s spot behind Pujols certainly played into the Mets’ hand. After getting seven shutout innings from Johan Santana, the Mets had to win that game. And the bullpen was almost heroic, getting out of one jam after another and keeping the game scoreless until Frankie Rodriguez (after warming up for three hours) gave up an RBI single to Yadier Molina (why didn’t the Mets intentionally walk him?). And give credit to Mike Pelfrey for getting the save two days after picking up a win in Colorado – who does he think he is, Dizzy Dean?
In the finale on Sunday, John Maine was a little better than he had been in his first two starts, but that’s not saying much. He threw 20 innings worth of pitches in five frames, and with one pitch, the bullpen lost the game. The Mets actually got their first hit of the season with the bases loaded when Angel Pagan singled in the second inning, but that was all the feeble offense could produce all night. At least the team’s starting pitching settled down somewhat in St. Louis. But who thought the offense would be this bad coming into the season?
After finding many ways to lose in the opening two weeks of the season, it looks like the team’s first move will be to pull the trigger early on underperforming players. Mike Jacobs, thanks for coming, here’s a parting gift of a toaster oven, now go away. There’s no word yet on whether Ike Davis is on his way to Citi Field, but it wouldn’t be surprising. And if the Mets go 4-8 in their next 12 games, it will most likely be Jerry Manuel who will be receiving a parting gift and shipped out of town.