So I've tried to put the emotions behind me and just write as dispassionately as possible, but if any bitterness seeps through, please understand that, as a Met fan, I am the most unloved fan in Sports. I don't mean that other teams and cities hate us; that's natural and to be expected. But in my own City i can't walk down the street in a Mets cap without someone in a Yankees or Red Sox hat yelling (yelling!) METS SUCK(!). Even in other metropolitan areas that have two franchises, one has the talent and the other has the fans. A White Sox fan may get jeered, but he or she knows that their team just won a championship, and the Cubbies haven't done that in a Century. In LA, where no one cares about baseball, the Dodgers have more fans but the Angels are unquestionably the better team over the last 10 years. And they have a recent ring too. So when the twins get knocked out, or the Cardinals, or the Phillies, at least everyone in the area is sharing the pain. Not in New York. Yankee fans may be upset about not making the postseason for the first time in 13 years, but the quantum of solace that they feel is that the Mets blew it also. I get no respect.
But I digress. Here's ten reasons why the Mets didn't make the postseason.
1. Ridiculously awful bullpen.
Yes, yes. I know you're saying, 'But wait. They weren't so bad until Wagner got hurt.' That's half-true. Wagner was pretty good except for a stretch in late May-Early June when he blew three consecutive saves. Any one of those games get won, and the Mets are in the postseason. Or at least in a tiebreaker with Milwaukee. And I won't even write the names of the guys called Aaron and Scott. They're Dead To Me. And then the normally reliable Feliciano got a lot less reliable after he was asked to step up after Billy went down. And Joe Smith, who is pretty good considering that he was in A-ball 16 months ago and as of yesterday had the second most relief appearances in MLB, right after Feliciano, got a little shaky. Ayala was OK for the stretch run, given that he wasn't actually a closer. Stokes was pretty good, but he was given up on last year by the Devil Rays, and he's our best reliever? Not good
2. Clutch Hitting
Beltran had a great year. Delgado should win comeback player of the year. Reyes was only the second Met ever to get 200+ hits in a season. And yet, all of those guys were not clutch hitters when the Mets needed them to be. David Wright was. Daniel Murphy was. Tatis was, before we lost him. Hell, even Ramon Martinez was pretty clutch in the last few games. But I watched a lot of Yankee games ten years ago, and what made those teams as great as they were was the clutch hitting. If Jeter didn't get you, here comes O'Neill, or Bernie, or Brosius, or Tino, or the damnable Luis Sojo. The Mets had some great hitters this year, but not when they Absolutely Had To Get A Hit.
3. Starting Pitching
Not for lack of trying, what with the signing of Johan Santana. This was a bum-luck situation. Maine got hurt, Pedro hasn't been the same since his surgery, and even admitted today that inside he hasn't felt the Fire since his father passed. El Duque never threw a pitch. Pelfrey was a bright spot, and will likely anchor the rotation along with Johan next year. But we went almost three months with only four real starters.
4. Management Fiasco
Jerry was a good manager and he deserves to have the Interim- removed from his title. but how many games did we lose because of the distractions around the staying or going of Willie Randolph? I liked Willie a lot, but his style didn't fit with these players and it sounded as if he was too detached from his clubhouse. But with all of those distractions, with Tony Bernazard whispering in people's ears behind Willie's back, and then the 3 A.M. termination, that all cost the Team. When you lose the wild card by one game and the division by three, it's easy to see that those sorts of distractions had a major impact. And they say that April and May don't count all that much. Hurumph.
5. Non-Spark Plug
I'm getting a little tired of hearing about Jose Reyes being the sparkplug for the team. Yeah, he has a good batting average, and I won't repeat myself with the clutch hitting, but it seems to me that a sparkplug has to spark a little more often. How about always running out every play? How about making the routine plays as easily as the acrobatic ones? Delgado saved Reyes more errors than I care to count. And despite how many SBs he has, it seems like whenever we needed a guy in scoring position he f-ed up the bunt or got caught stealing. Reyes may be the better fielder, but even I admit that Jimmy Rollins is the better player.
There. I said his name. i never will again. He should be fired. they should eat his salary and send him to kansas city for low level prospects.
7. Too many celebrations
I love Shea, and seeing it close up for the last time brought tears to my eyes, but I think that some of the 'this is the last year' crap became a distraction for the team.
8. The Choke Legacy
The guys won't say it because most of them have class, but if you have to hear fifteen or twenty reporters mention the collapse of 2007 every night after every loss for six and a half months, how can that not get into your head? Even good teams occasionally tell the reporters, "Not tonight, boys." NY reporters hate it, but I think it would have been good, especially in the last several days, to close down the media frenzy after each game, just to let the guys relax
Again, I love Shea, but the Stadium hurt the team. The stats may not show it, but we were a better team on the road than at home. We own Florida in Florida. We missed the playoffs two years in a row because we could win two of three from them in our own park. We did better against Philly in Philly also. This may be the biggest change next year, although they say that Citi will still be a pitcher's park.
10. We weren't as good as we needed to be
We looked good on paper. When it came time to execute, Philly was better than us. That's the last word.
Now, all Philly has to do is actually win a postseason game for the first time in 15 years...