Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Never Happened

I actually forgot that the Mets were playing a day game today until around 5pm, when my infamous co-worker called and asked if I had the game on.

I immediately turned the game on and realized I hadn't missed much. Or, rather, I hadn't missed anything that I hadn't already seen out of the Mets.

Then, about 10 or so minutes after I put the game on, Ronny CedeƱo hit his grand slam and that was pretty much that.

With the extent of the Mets/Cubs games in Chicago coming and going within the span of 24 hours, I fully expect to have no memory whatsoever of the Mets at Wrigley Field this season. It's probably better that way, given how things have turned out.

I suppose the brunt of the blame will focus on the pitching, specifically the Bullpen, and while they haven't been very good, or very consistent at all over the first few weeks of the season (Heilman and Sosa repeatedly victimized over the past few days), it's too easy to heap all the blame on them.

Look at it this way: Aaron Heilman came into Monday night's game with the Mets trailing 2-1 in the 8th. Aided by a Jose Reyes error and some long hits, a 2-1 deficit turned into a 7-1 deficit, the runs unearned. Unearned, yes, but given up nonetheless.

Going further, however, is the fact that had Heilman pitched well, and held the Cubs, then the Mets would have lost the game 2-1, rather than 7-1. Heilman and Sosa wouldn't have magically taken the Cubs runs off the board.

The pitching can do what they can, and whether they do it or not, it doesn't make much of a difference if the Mets could only muster 2 runs over 2 games. If the bullpen does right itself, and start to pitch with some authority, it'll certainly be nice, but will it matter if nobody not named David Wright hits?

Carlos Beltran languishes with a .215 average and 1 HR. Carlos Delgado is barely off the interstate at .208, 1 HR. These are major players in the Mets offense, and for them to not be hitting creates a lot of problems and a lot of pressure on the rest of the team. It's an awful lot like last year. The Mets seem to win when they have a spark, like a bigtime outing from Santana or a 4-hit game from Wright or Reyes. But these guys can't and won't carry the load day after day, and it's not realistic to expect them to do so. More disconcerting is that there's still no anger or chip on the shoulder, especially on the day after they got their heads handed to them. We expected there to be some kind of difference, especially after basically the same team muddled through most of last season, and after the air of confidence and cockiness had seemed to return during Spring Training.

I know Beltran is a streak hitter, and he could right himself and put together one of those weeks where he hits .485 with 5 HR and 16 RBI and everything would be better. I'm less sure about Delgado, to the point where perhaps Moises Alou or Angel Pagan should be taking First Base lessons.

I keep saying this, but especially after the way last season went (and I'm not going to refer to "The Collapse" specifically anymore, and neither should anybody else, because the Mets were lousy all season, and everyone knows this as truth), it's really really easy to panic even though it's only April. But they're not playing consistently good baseball. Sure, they won 5 games in a row last week, but that could just as easily have happened by accident. It's a step up from last year, however, when they didn't manage 5 wins in a row until September, but what's that saying? They're the same team now that they were then? I don't see much of a difference.

Yes, yes, it's very early to panic. But this season, right now, looks like it has all the potential to get real ugly real quick. But so I don't sound too pessimistic and upset the optimists out there, I will say that last year, at this time, the Mets looked like a World Series team, and that pretty much fell apart starting in June. These things can turn around.

At least, I think they can...

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