Oct 03

Mets season ends with disappointment, hope for future

Game #162 vs. Nationals

We’re now done to the final innings, the final pitches of a disappointing season, yet one that ends with some glimmer of hope.

Jerry Manuel spoke of regrets this morning in his final pre-game press conference. He’s been around, he hears the whispers that have become shouts. There will be changes, and therein lies the hope. Maybe the changes will be for the better.

Manuel’s regrets are forcing Jose Reyes in the third slot and rushing players, notably Reyes and Carlos Beltran from injury. I am sure there are other thoughts that will creep into his consciousness in the black of the night this winter.

It’s always that way in every baseball season for every team but one. This year the Mets haven’t been the one as they haven’t been since 1986. There was trepidation for the Mets coming out of spring training, concerns, worries and holes, but during the season there was a turnaround and a flash of hope.

But, the worries and holes resurfaced, along with injuries and poor play and the season faded and then spun out of control and the dreams died.

The Mets will stay home this fall, watching and wondering what might have been. There also will be a time this winter when the thoughts turn to David Wright staring down that pitcher yesterday and saying “enough is enough,” with the high-and-tight fastballs. There will also be thoughts of Mike Pelfrey taking a step forward, of Angel Pagan, or Josh Thole, or RA Dickey and of Ike Davis.

There were things down the stretch that said the situation is not hopeless, that there is reason for hope and perhaps soon a season won’t end in regret.

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Oct 02

Mets down to one more game.

Game #161 vs. Nationals

Do you remember 2007 and 2008 when the season came down to the final weekend and we got wonderful pitching performances from John Maine and Johan Santana? Gems that kept alive the season in those summers of memorable collapses?

Those were the days.

Even if it meant the disappointment of losing the final game, I’d take that kind of finish over the one this year. Citi Field won’t be packed this sunny afternoon. There will be a bite of chill in the air, just like there should be for October baseball, but it won’t mean anything other than Game #161.

Last night was a thriller, with Josh Thole and Ike Davis reminding us there could be an exciting future with the Mets.

But, it will have to wait.

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Aug 16

Looking for a silver thread ….

The Mets are 10 games behind Atlanta and below .500. They have an upcoming schedule at Houston – which is playing better since the Roy Oswalt trade – and Pittsburgh – which always plays them tough. This is their last chance to make up some ground and bring interest into September.

Frankly, while I doubt they’ll make a real run, there could be some interesting ball ahead.

Their pitching, supposedly the weak link entering the season, has been surprisingly good, and if not for Mike Pelfrey’s July slide it would be good enough to have them in contention. What has been dismal, and has since the beginning of the season has been the offense. Also weak has been the bullpen.

As the season slowly fades into disappointment and winter, let’s take a moment to look at some of the positives through 117 games:

1) The record. Seriously. Last year on this date they were 55-62 and sinking fast. David Wright had just been plunked and would be rendered useless for the rest of the season. They have made improvement and with a full season from Carlos Beltran and a productive year from Jason Bay, they’d be over .500 and within spitting distance even with their bullpen woes. Hey, you take your positives when you can.

2) Johan Santana. We’re looking at 15 victories easily with a little run support. There was a brief four-game stretch when we were wondering about his fastball and whether he was still an ace. Well, he is. There are times when I wonder if he regrets coming here, but he’s the ultimate professional and will never show it. The Mets are lucky to have him, and hopefully the younger pitchers in the rotation are learning from him. Eventually, there will be a decline, but not now.

3) Angel Pagan. He began the season behind Gary Matthews, but has evolved into the Mets’ most reliable offensive performer. He’s the best they have with RISP, has some pop, can steal a base, and has surpassed Beltran as the team’s best center fielder. What Pagan showed last year was no fluke. This is a player the Mets can build around.

4) Ike Davis. He wasn’t supposed to be here until late in the season, perhaps September, but has become one of the NL’s premier’s rookies. He hits for power and should finish with over 20 homers and plays a sparkling first base. Davis has made Daniel Murphy a footnote. First base will be his for years to come.

5) Josh Thole. Another young player who arrived ahead of schedule. The pitchers like throwing to him and he’s not an easy out at the plate. Rod Barajas is coming back, but the position is Thole’s to keep. The time he’s getting now will only help him in the future.

6) Jon Niese. The question as the fifth starter going in, Niese has become a dependable starter, perhaps the No. 2 with Pelfrey being erratic. He’s not afraid to challenge hitters and works quickly and efficiently and with remarkable poise. He’s getting more adept at making adjustments within the game. He was in demand at the trade deadline, but the Mets were wise to say no.

7) R. A. Dickey. The other shoe has yet to drop for Dickey. He’s been impressive from the outset, but none more so than rebounding against the Phillies after the same team hammered him the previous week. That’s hard to do. The way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if he led the team in victories before it is all over. The Mets still need to add a starter in the offseason, but not to replace Dickey.

8) Hisanori Takahashi. The numbers are night and day between Takahashi the starter and the reliever. Forced into the starter’s role, he performed admirably before being exposed. He’s great one time through the order and that should be his role. Hopefully, Pat Misch will step in and allow Takahashi to do what he does best.

9) Bobby Parnell. Still a work in progress, but he’s made strides since last season when he was yanked around between roles. I believe Parnell has what it takes to develop into a solid set-up man. The experience he’s getting now can only bring hope.

10) Mike Pelfrey. I mean the pre-July Pelfrey. For two months he was better than one could have imagined, working with confidence and command of all of his pitches. Then came July, but has last two starts have been much better, an indication he might have learned from his slide. Of all the things I’m anxious to see during the final six weeks the most is whether Pelfrey can rebound completely. It would say a lot about his maturation process if he can take something out of his adversity.

11) Ruben Tejada. There’s no questioning his defense, and although he’s not hitting now he showed some glimpses early. The Mets played with energy when he was in the lineup replacing Luis Castillo when the latter was on the disabled list. I think the Mets will be in good hands when he finally takes over for Castillo.

12) Jose Reyes. If nothing else, the Mets finally learned Reyes is a leadoff hitter and nothing else. He’s lost focus at times this season, but he’s overcome his injury problems and the team still thinks highly enough to want to sign him to an extension. Perhaps the focus will always be a problem, but when he’s on his game he’s still a dynamic presence at the top of the order.

13) David Wright. Despite a horrible pace for 176 strikeouts, which must come down, he’s also on pace to hit 24 homers and drive in 107 runs, showing an improvement over last season’s power outage. Wright has been streaky all season, but he’s still the best this franchise has to offer.

Aug 15

Mets Chat Room; where’s the hope?

Game #117 vs. Phillies

Every day I look at the standings and wonder if it’s possible. Can the Mets actually turn this thing around and make this season one to remember?

Not so much anymore.

The Braves won big today and the Mets are 9 1/2 games out. It’s double digits if they lose tonight. With each passing day it is becoming more and more that this is a season to forget.

The starting pitching is getting better, but the offense – despite its talents – is listless and stagnant. The bullpen, as we long suspected, is worn and frayed. There’s no spark. No life. No reason for hope.

The Francisco Rodriguez incident really brings this into focus. The players spoke in cliche about supporting a teammate when they should have condemned the action and demanded an apology. The manager, instead of recognizing the severity of the incident and speaking out, said he was willing to pitch him.

The owners issued an 18-work statement expressing their “disappointment” when they should have been expressing their anger. Then again, ownership hasn’t taken a leadership role all season.

Hope? Hope is not an action plan.

Apr 30

April 30.10: On to Philly.

The Mets didn’t win anything on their recent homestand and they won’t win anything this weekend in Philadelphia.

Neither will the Phillies.

The most important thing coming out of the homestand, and this weekend’s series, is it has made the Mets’ season relevant again. It might have started with the promotion of Ike Davis and ended with perhaps the best 10-game regular season stretch in franchise history, but in between we saw the Mets play alert, aggressive baseball.

We saw the Mets play as they promised us they would. We saw them play as if they wanted our attention.

And, they deserved it.

What I am looking forward to in this series are three games of intense baseball, of a rivalry where the competitive juices are flowing.

After all the promoting it as such, it finally is a rivalry worth paying attention to again. Each one of the games has a special nugget of intrigue.

Tonight is about Jon Niese and how the young pitcher will respond to the pressure of a high profile game. Niese giving the Mets six strong tonight will go a long way toward answering some of their pitching questions. It would also prevent an emotional let down.

After a week-and-a-half of being on an emotional high, tonight is about sustaining. The last thing we want to see is for Niese to get hammered and to lose that good feeling.

Tomorrow, and this is the game I really want to see, is Mike Pelfrey against Roy Halladay. In a season full of tests for Pelfrey, this is another one. Aren’t you curious about seeing him go against an ace?

Sunday it is the stopper, Johan Santana, who would be pitching to either stave off a disappointment or continue the ride. It will be as important a game as you can have in May, and you want your best.

The Mets went 9-1 because they played to their capabilities, but also because they did not try to exceed them. They played within themselves and didn’t try to do something they weren’t capable of doing.

They need that same, level approach this weekend, and if they get it, then it could be the start of a wonderful summer.