Monday, July 16, 2012

The Lost Weekend

Like every team, the Mets wanted to come out of the All-Star break strong.  It didn't happen.  Before the season, nearly every member of the media wrote the Mets off.  They were going to be a last place team.  There were a handful of times during the first half when the Mets appeared to be heading back to and perhaps under the .500 mark.  That didn't happen.  Now, with a maddening three game sweep at the hands of the Braves at Turner Field behind them, the media is salivating yet again.  Joel Sherman penned an article today basically saying that the fat lady was singing:

Now, these Mets are 0-3 in 2012 after a second-half-opening series that as bellwethers go was akin to seeing the iceberg from aboard the Titanic.
It'd be somewhat understandable to liken a three game sweep to a sure to sink ship, had the Mets been non-competitive in those three games.  If they'd failed to score any runs.  If they'd failed to fight back when they were down.  However, that's not what happened over the weekend in Atlanta.  They showed the same fight they have all year, but came out on the losing end.  What happened was a confluence of at times strange events that led to three losses, with the most alarming thing being the fact that Chris Young, RA Dickey, and Johan Santana each gave up 5 runs or more.  While discussing the ugly lines of the Mets' starters, realize the Mets countered by battering both Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson (the Braves won the games, so no one is worried about those two).  If you think the Mets' starters ERA will be 5.50 for the duration of the second half, you'd be correct in writing the team off after three second half games.  If you don't believe that to be in the cards, consider the following:

Chris Young laid an egg Friday night, the Mets fought back to make it 5-4, failed to capitalize on a bases loaded situation in the middle of the game, and eventually lost.  Tough game.  Johan Santana saw three absolutely absurd calls go against him in the 5th inning of a scoreless game (two of which would've resulted in strike 3 and a scoreless inning), and the Braves scored each one of their runs in that frame.  Runs that wouldn't have scored if CB Bucknor was a competent umpire.  Still, the Mets' bats were flat so who knows if they would've won.  The game the Mets should've had was Saturday.

RA Dickey didn't have his best stuff, and was victimized by another Andres Torres misplay (why he's still getting time in Center Field, I have no idea) and some more interesting umpiring that led to an ugly final line.  Even so, the Mets fought back and took a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning.  I'm not sure why Bobby Parnell was summoned for a five out save when Pedro Beato was doing fine, but whatever.  After Parnell entered and recorded a strikeout, he gave up three consecutive hits.  Let me preface what I'm about to say with this:  Yes, hits are hits.  I'm not discounting anything the Braves did.  Still, each of the three hits were grounders through the infield.  The first one was the most clean, back through the box.  The next one was slapped past Ike Davis, who was holding the runner on at 1st base.  The one that gave the Braves the lead was hit an inch out of Ronny Cedeno's reach...a ball Ruben Tejada may have fielded if he wasn't incomprehensibly double switched out of the game.  If one of the first two grounders are fielded, the Mets likely win the game.  If the third one is fielded, they may have won.  And if they had won Saturday in Atlanta, none of the "fat lady singing" pieces would've been written.  So, the difference between "the Mets are OK" and "the Mets are doomed" is basically three seeing eye singles.

Now, it is certainly normal to be concerned at the moment.  The starting rotation has slipped, the bullpen continues to be a crap-shoot, and the offense has been hit and miss.  Still, this team has fought back in every game it's been down, and has gotten up off the mat after every difficult loss and after every trying stretch.  They made it through what most were sure would bring them crashing down to Earth (the string of games against Playoff contenders in June), and are now staring at a similar stretch (9 games against Washington and Los Angeles, followed by an 11 game West Coast swing).  The Mets have gone from 0.5 games back of the second Wild Card to 3.5 games back, and that's scary.  It's put them in a precarious spot. 

The Mets need bullpen help, and it appears as if Josh Edgin will be a positive addition.  You'd expect the team to make an acquisition from outside the organization to fortify the pen a bit more.  And if Jenrry Mejia can get his act together, he'd be another intriguing internal option.  Mike Baxter recently played his first rehab game, and is probably about 10 days away from returning.  As I'm typing this, Matt Harvey has exited the game after 6 2/3 innings of 3 hit, 1 run ball for Buffalo in what is likely his last AAA start before being called up to face the Dodgers at Citi Field on Saturday.  

The 2012 Mets are a young, likeable team.  Instead of seeing retreads called up in times of need, we're seeing homegrown talent with upside (see Jordany Valdespin, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Josh Edgin, and soon Matt Harvey).  There have been lots of comparisons between 2012 and 1984 - a year where the Mets started to right the ship, but couldn't quite get over the hump.  If that's the end result of this season, so be it.  However, this team has responded each time it's been knocked down.  There's absolutely no reason to write them off this quickly.  The Mets simply need to come out against the Nationals beginning Tuesday night and get back to work.  They need to respond to adversity once again.   

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