Monday, June 22, 2009

More of the Same

Clearly, June has not been the Mets month. I feel more comfortable saying that than I feel saying 2009 is not the Mets season, which is a phrase I seem to be hearing more and more lately. I'd already declared the Mets season more or less over after this particular pair of games, but when you think about it, didn't most of us do the same thing last year? This season appears to be playing out kind of like 2007 if you think about it, only the roles of the Mets and the Phillies have been reversed. The Mets are sort of a joke at this point, and the Phillies are expected to stampede away without a challenger. But this hasn't happened. Philly has had a lead in the division pretty much throughout the season, and the Mets have just barely been hanging on the fringes, along with a pair of other pain-in-the-ass teams that can't negotiate themselves, Atlanta and Florida. But, here, we've hit June, and it won't stop raining, and the Mets keep losing, and now the Phillies keep losing too. Something, at some point, will have to give, right?

Conventional wisdom would have you believe that the Phillies are going to catch fire again, while you'd be less inclined to think that the Mets have the oomph within themselves to do so. This is a pretty solid argument if you figure that the Mets haven't been able to generate much more than 5 runs a game on any consistent basis, and for some reason, every time they shift a guy into the 8th inning role he automatically becomes Aaron Heilman. But the Phillies have their own issues too. Their bullpen, to this point, looks about as frightening as the 2008 Mets bullpen did, give or take a Joe Smith/Clay Condrey type. Brad Lidge, unhittable last season, has been ineffective and now injured, and his replacement, Ryan Madson, hasn't exactly looked sharp filling in. It's another one of my cockamamie theories, but it seems as though once a team's bullpen gets branded with a particular reputation and struggles on a regular basis, it has a tendency to snowball. Consider the Mets last season. Everyone in the bullpen for the better part of the season was, in and of themselves, a viable Major League talent. But once you blow a game, and then you blow another and another, and it becomes somewhat expected that once the game gets into the bullpen, the whole thing gets kinda dicey, you begin to fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. It's sort of like saying that the Mets were screwed the second Jerry Manuel emerged from the dugout and waved his hand. Will this happen to the Phillies this year? It remains to be seen. But the patterns are startling.

The Mets haven't been immune to these woes at all. But the pitchers that have struggled all have either righted themselves for an extended period, or at least shown themselves capable of solid performances on a consistent basis. Sean Green was miserable in the early going this season, but he's been great as of late. Parnell has been the opposite, solid start, lousy once he started being used more often. Brian Stokes looks good and bad. Takahashi is filler, at least for now, if you really want my opinion. But all things considered, it hasn't been at all comparable to the nightmare that was last season in the Mets bullpen. Especially when you consider the fact that the Mets can trot out Rodriguez in the 9th inning and he's going to kick you in the nuts and take your lunch money 18 out of 19 times (and I'm not going to count that BS against the Yankees since he did the job he needed to).

But if you can say that the Mets are better than the Phillies, or at least more stable than the Phillies in the bullpen, that's about the only edge you can give the Mets in the matchup. Starting pitching is about even, though the Mets have been injured and inconsistent, and the offense isn't even close. Someone's going to end up making a move and bringing in someone that will throw this comparison decidedly one way or another, and I'm not sure who. Most of the people I listen to think it's going to be the Phillies, since the Mets are running around like a chicken with their heads cut off. Omar has needed to make a move for some time, but I wonder if he's a little too smart to listen to the fans. There's something to be said about the fact that the Mets have fumphered around and looked clueless, yet still lie within striking distance while key players are hurt and they don't hit and lose eminently winnable games. It happens to every team and it can happen in bunches sometimes. Maybe there's something to this. Maybe Omar Minaya is silently buying time for himself, waiting for Reyes and Delgado to return so he can accurately assess what his team really needs instead of being reactionary.

I don't know. The alarm bells were set off a long time ago and the panic has already set in. You wonder just how long the Mets really are able to continue to just get by like this.

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