Don't get me wrong people. The Mets' bullpen is bad.
In fact, it's horrible. I'm not going to rehash the unit's stats since the All-Star break; they just make me want to get myself back into playing shape, walk up to Shea Stadium, and demand a tryout.
There isn't one guy that doesn't make my stomach turn every time Gary Cohen says "(fill in the blank) is warming up in the bullpen." It takes a truly special group of men to create that kind of angst on a nightly basis.
But last night, the bullpen gave up three earned runs over the final seven-and-one-third innings of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Not spectacular by any means, and the final two runs cost the Mets the game.
But this is not all the bullpen's fault. It's easy to pin the loss (and the lion's share of the Mets' struggles) on them, but an alarming trend has been forming over the course of this roller-coaster season of New York Mets baseball.
I'm talking to you, David Wright.
You too, Beltran. Even you, Mr. Comeback Player of the Year, Carlos Delgado.
I'm talking about the Amazin's offense. This group looks like the second coming of "Murderer's Row" for the first three innings of every game, only to take their foot off the gas for the remaining six.
The club has scored the most first-inning runs of any team in baseball and has the biggest run differential over the first three innings in the majors.
But over the last third of a game, the boys from Queens have one of the five worst run differentials in the league.
Some of that falls on the bullpen, sure. But certainly not all of it.
The Mets' offense went into a nine-inning-long coma last night at Citizen's Bank Park. Wright and Delgado hit into inning-ending double plays with runners in scoring position. The hitters' approach at the plate changed dramatically once they mounted a big lead, and the small-ball tactics and running game that allow them to get out in front early became completely nonexistent.
This team lacks the killer instinct to go for the throat and put a team away. It's been a known fact that the bullpen is the "weak link" of this club, so that should create even more of a sense of urgency to keep scoring runs and maintain the approach that allows them to jump out to early leads
If the Mets want to play in October, they need to eliminate "Cruise Control" as one of their speeds, and play with their foot to the floor for nine innings.
The bullpen may truly be the weak link, but without their offense developing the killer instinct necessary to put teams away, the arms in the 'pen won't be the only ones drawing blame when this team misses out on October baseball.