Sep 15

Today in Mets’ History: Record-wise the Mets were actually better last year at this time.

Last year at this time, we knew the playoffs were out of the question for the Mets, but they were at .500 at 73-73 and trying to salvage their season.

There was a twinge of optimism because we figured there would be a changing of the guard, with a new regime making things right again.

It’s what baseball does. It gives us optimism and hope.

So, we all hoped this year would be better. It would be a rebuilding year, but it would be better than the past two dreadful seasons because new blood would be running things.

I thought for a moment it was possible, the Mets would rally to salvage the season and finish at .500 or better.

It would have been a sign of true progress.

There have been positives this year, but they have been off-set by the inevitable injuries and other negatives. There’s a new regime, but there’s so much economic uncertainty swirling around the Mets that we can’t honestly say things will improve any time soon.

Never should the Mets be playing today to avoid being swept in a four-game series by the Washington Nationals. It tells of how things soured, and underscored the Mets’ inability to get over the hump.

The Mets had several spurts this season, but answered them with several slides. Win five, lose five, isn’t the answer.

Scoring four runs in the first three games of this series, and last night their anemic offense took away from a strong performance from Mike Pelfrey. However, I’ve written “strong performance,’’ from Pelfrey before only to watch him get torched in his subsequent start. In many ways, he personifies what has happened.

The Mets stranded ten last night and 40 over their last four games, and have left 1,558 on the season, tops in the majors. I don’t want to hear about their ability to get runners on base and even score (sixth in the NL). The point is they don’t score enough to overcome their spotty pitching.

The Mets have lost 24 games by one run, which is a reflection on both their pitching and offense. Improving one without the other doesn’t guarantee they take the next step.

I never expected them to compete for the playoffs this year. And, when they made a run and were four games over .500 in late July, you always expected the other shoe to fall.

Carlos Beltran was traded, and the Mets lost five straight at the end of July and early August. They fought back to get a game over .500, then had two five-game losing streaks within two weeks to fall eight under.

A staple of this team has been to rally and play with heart, to show us it cared. They pulled within a game of .500, but lost seven of eight on this homestand.

It is this homestand that made me feel some disappointment for the first time. I thought with the Cub and Nationals they could get over .500 to make a symbolic gesture at improvement.

Win or lose today, the Mets close with Atlanta, St. Louis, the Phillies and Reds. They are limping to the finish and .500 – which is mediocre to begin with – is no longer a possibility. They will be hard pressed to equal last year’s 79-83, and that would be disappointing.

The attitude under Terry Collins is much better than it was under Jerry Manuel, but the talent level hasn’t necessarily improved.

There are a myriad of issues facing the Mets in the offseason that should warn us the road is still long.

* Will the Mets keep Jose Reyes?

* Will Johan Santana be 100 percent?

* What happened with Mike Pelfrey and what direction will he take?

* Can Bobby Parnell be the closer, and can the Mets build a reliable bullpen bridge to him?

* Will they ever get anything out of Jason Bay?

* Will David Wright be a power hitter again?

Those are just the headline issues. There are issues surrounding Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, everybody in the rotation and at second base.

There’s also a collective bargaining agreement that makes the offseason uncertain, plus the Wilpon’s financial issues.

Gone is the poison that was Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, but this team still has a long way to go.


 



 



Aug 26

Santana to play winter ball? Irene washes away weekend.

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets are considering the instructional league and winter ball for Johan Santana, whose rehab had a setback a couple of weeks ago.

Alderson said it is possible Santana could get another rehab start at St. Lucie, but offered no promises.

The Mets must be prudent with Santana. He’s already had one setback, and another could derail his comeback permanently.

Not that they had much choice with mass transit shutting down Saturday afternoon because of Hurricane Irene, but the Mets rescheduled their games for Saturday and Sunday as part of a single admission doubleheader, Sept. 8.

However, tonight’s game is still on, with Chris Capuano starting against Tim Hudson.

Jason Bay was scratched with a jammed right shoulder.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Angel Pagan, CF

Ruben Tejada, SS

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, RF

Nick Evans, 1B

Josh Thole, C

Justin Turner, 2B

Jason Pridie, LF

Chris Capuano, LP

 

Aug 24

Free fall personified by non-slide

The freefall some have been waiting for all season is here. After being blown out last night in Philly for the second straight game, the Mets have lost 17 of their past 22 games. Some were in excruciating style. Some, like the past two games, were simply ugly.

PAGAN: Shameful display.

Nothing was more ugly, or discouraging than Angel Pagan’s non-slide into the plate to open the game.  He was either lazy, stupid, not paying attention or faked out by catcher Brian Schneider. Your choice which is worse.

He should have been benched on the spot. When you stop thinking, you stop trying, and there appears no stopping the Mets in their fall to the basement.

To me the whole night was summed up by that play. He should have put Schneider on his butt. It was the type of play Pagan made two years ago excuses were made for his inexperience. Those excuses don’t apply any longer. Probably, with Scott Hairston injured, Terry Collins had no other choice but to start him today.

Ugly was also compounded by the loss of Jon Niese with a rib cage pull. Niese iitially injured his back last week in San Diego, and aggravated it pitching to Hunter Pence last night.

He admitted he should have said something, but didn’t. Just a dumb, dumb thing to do.

Niese has been in a funk for awhile, with a 6.82 ERA over his last six starts, lasting an average of 5.1 innings. If he’s been hurting even before San Diego, then add another dumb to the list.

The Mets are now at the point with Niese that they should consider shutting him down for the season. Seriously, what’s to be gained by throwing him out there again?

Niese wasn’t the only disappointment last night.

The frustration started early when they stranded five runners in the first two innings courtesy of five strikeouts. All of them looking.

Defensively, this was a spring training game with players over throwing the cutoff men and going to the wrong base.

The only positive coming out of last night was Lucas Duda’s continued hot inning. He was in right field last night where he should have been for the past two weeks.

He’ll be in right again this afternoon when the Mets try to avoid being swept. Mike Pelfrey will have the honors.

I don’t know about you, but I have little faith in Pelfrey today, and with good reason: He has a 7.58 ERA in two defeats against Philadelphia this year.

Here’s this afternoon’s lineup:

Angel Pagan, CF

Ruben Tejada, SS

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, RF

Jason Bay, LF

Nick Evans, 1B

Josh Thole, C

Justin Turner, 2B

Mike Pelfrey, RP

 

Aug 23

Salvaging the season. Duda in right tonight.

The Mets will take the field shortly in an effort to avoid falling eight games below .500. After stumbling out of the gate, the Mets have been playing competitive baseball for a good part of the summer.

August has been a disaster.

The Mets have a little over five weeks remaining before winter, but David Wright said there’s a lot to play for.

“We just can’t allow ourselves to just play out the season,’’ David Wright said. “It’s obviously a bad situation to begin with. And the last thing you want to do is just go out there and play the games for the sake of playing the games. Hopefully people realize that there’s a lot on the line going into next year, and we clean some things up and get some things going.’’

After missing two months with a stress fracture in his lower back, one might think Wright is trying to salvage 2011 from a statistical perspective, but collectively the rest of the season is to set up 2012. Wright isn’t about the stats as much as he is trying to establish a mentality to build on.

For one, Terry Collins said he wants to see more of Lucas Duda in right field, something he’s hinted at several times. Duda will be in right field tonight, and Collins said he’ll play there more often with the rosters are expanded in September.