I love when fans say that there's no life on a baseball team, no sense of urgency. That a team didn't come to play.
It's baseball. You either get hits or you don't. You either make outs or you don't.
It has nothing to do with fire, or urgency, or chemistry. It's all about production.
The Mets lost to the Braves Monday night, 4-1. Tim Hudson went six innings, allowed six hits and three walks, and just one run. Then the Braves bullpen of Vetters , Saito , and Wagner shut the door as it has done pretty much all season.
The Mets didn't hit, and haven't hit lately. And they lost again. That's what happened.
But fans love to play amateur psychiatrist, and so did Gary Cohen, a longtime Mets fan himself.
When Matt Diaz took second on a base hit to left-center, he bemoaned the "bad body language" on the team and the lack of urgency on Carlos Beltran's part. Neither he nor Keith Hernandez noted that Beltran was playing to the right side of center and had to come a long way for that ball. His only mistake was taking an extra step before throwing the ball in, but that's all Diaz needed. Credit Diaz for hustling.
You want to blame shoddy defense for the three-run first? You're pinning a loss on a bad exchange on a potential double-play grounder? How about Johan Santana walking Troy Glaus after having him down 0-2. That brought up Ankiel , a lefty, who then singled in two.
When your offense is that bad, and your margin for error is that small that a first-inning fielder's choice is lamented that much, then you know you're in trouble.
But that has nothing to do with urgency or fire. What should the Mets do? Start a brawl? Check someone into the boards? Sack the quarterback?
Get hits. Score runs. Pitch well. Win games. The Mets have only pitched well, for the most part. No hits and runs—that's been the problem. But why?
Because Howard Johnson is a horrible hitting coach, of course! Fire him!
There's been talk about how the Mets have faced some tough pitching lately, but it's mostly been lip service. Let's take a closer look:
Since the All-Star break, the Mets are 5-13, with 12 of those 18 games on the road. They faced 16 different starters in that span (meeting the D-Backs' Enright and Kennedy twice), and of those 16 starters, 12 have records of .500 or better and six of them with nine wins or more. Their combined record as of Monday's games is 106-77, a .579 winning percentage.
Here are the same numbers for the Phillies and Braves since the break:
Phillies: 10-8, seven games at home, faced eight starters of .500 or better, four with nine wins or more. Combined record 113-108, .511 winning percentage.
Braves: 8-9, eight games at home, faced 11 starters of .500 or better, three with nine wins or more. Combined record 102-95, .518 winning percentage.
So, since the break, the Mets have had to play two-thirds of their games on the road against starting pitchers who have won 58 percent of their games, including 12 with winning records. The Phillies and Braves, by comparison, faced less winning pitchers whose aggregate winning percentage was about 65 points lower.
Throw in a not-ready-for-prime-time Carlos Beltran, a slumping (and now injured) Jason Bay and Rod Barajas , an ice-cold Jeff Francoeur and Luis Castillo, and a tepid Ike Davis, and you have a struggling offense trying to win games against good pitching, mostly on the road.
And we're surprised they haven't won more?
What is Jerry Manuel supposed to do?
He's trying, with 18 different lineups since the break. Guess who else had a different lineup every day, even when the team was winning? Bobby Valentine, and that drove fans crazy. The same Bobby V Mets fans are pining for now, when they're not clamoring for Wally Backman , who hasn't won a major league game but has thrown a lot of bats in the minors .
Oh, right, he was on the '86 champs. So he must be a good manager.
And he has fire! Like Lou Piniella , whose Cubs are 46-60.
The bottom line is that the Mets hit a stretch where they had to play mostly on the road against good starting pitching at a time when it started to struggle offensively, while trying to work in two players (Beltran and Castillo) coming off fairly long stretches on the DL .
While fans ask the players to show some fire and urgency, what of management and ownership? No deadline deals for any help while the Braves, Phillies, and Dodgers made significant moves.
What message does that send to the team? We believe in you? Or we're out of it and want to hold on to prospects? Or we can't spend another dime?
Does that have an effect on a team that has been looking and asking for help down the stretch? Maybe.
The Mets are a .500 team with 56 games left in a season that is slipping away. The only way to turn it around is to start hitting and keep pitching.
They have opportunity to do so with these next five games against the Braves and Phillies, and if they can hang in there, they have 17 of their final 22 games at Citi Field.
Bay, Beltran, and Davis haven't caught fire all season, and Reyes hasn't blown up yet, either. There's still some hope.
But don't talk about fire.