Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 Mets: A Season In Futility, Part I

It's no great secret that the 2009 Mets suffered through a totally miserable season. It was disappointing, but in a different way than the two seasons before it. This season started with the same promise as 2008 and 2007. But the early optimism gave way early on to several problems, beginning with the same clutch failures that haunted the Mets down the stretch in '07 and '08, and then was compounded with a rash of major injuries to many of the players that were counted on to carry the load over the course of the season. Mets players logged over 1,450 days on the DL in 2009, by far and away the most in the majors. But it was the result of those injuries that was most alarming.

It's very easy to call out the Mets for a major disconnect between team staff, medical staff and players, and this was one of several embarrassments the club suffered during the season. But what was most galling for me was the relative lack of concern showed by the team's front office. For the powers that be, this season was about one thing and one thing only: Showcasing their shimmering new palace that a large chunk of fans didn't seem to like very much. Players come and go, but Citi Field stands above all. So, as key player after key player found themselves out for a majority of the season, the Mets had no adequate replacement, and made no effort whatsoever to acquire an adequate replacement. The Mets became an utter laughingstock. Uncompetitive, Uninspiring and Uninteresting. The end of the season was met with relief, the kind of feeling I'd never experienced in all my years rooting for the team. The trepidation of the past two seasons was a joy compared to this.

The Mets used 53 players in all during the 2009 season. Most of them were unremarkable. When you use 53 players in a season, it generally means things aren't going well. It also means that I have to split my Final Report card into 2 parts. Today, we'll review the position players. Tomorrow, we'll review the Pitchers, the Manager, the GM and everything else. This is going to be as painful for me to write as it probably is for you all to read.

Omir Santos - B-
Santos was, for a while, one of those unsung welcome rays of sunlight for the Mets. Called up to replace an injured Ramon Castro, Santos came up with several clutch hits, most notably his Replay HR against Jonathan Papelbon in better times. But as the season wore on, Santos came back to earth and eventually, he found himself lost in a 3-catcher shuffle. He stopped hitting, and he rarely, if ever, took a walk. Clearly, he's worth having around. I don't, however, think he's the answer as a starting Catcher.

Brian Schneider - F
One of my problems with Schneider being the everyday catcher for the Mets was the fact that, last season, he had a serious inability to hit at certain moments. This problem dogged him just about all season, as Schneider found himself on the interstate for most of the year. Only a late hot streak (which I guess you could have expected would happen once the season was in the tank) managed to get his average up to a mediocre .218. This was, I suppose, his contract push. It got to the point where every time he started a game, I threw up my arms. There just wasn't any good reason for him to play. It's not that Santos was light years better, but, this is Brian Schneider, perhaps the most boring player on a boring team. Free Agent, won't return if Omar knows what's good for him.

Ramon Castro - D-
It really surprises me how many supporters Castro has out there. It's ridiculous. Castro can hit, but as I've said many times over, he's just not durable enough to be an everyday player. This season played out predictably. He got hurt again, Santos played well, he got shipped out of town and the highlight of his season in Chicago was catching a perfect game from Mark Buehrle. He's a guy that people want to play every day, but he doesn't seem to want to play more than 2 days a week. Nice clubhouse presence, I guess. Nice moments in his 3+ years with the Mets, I guess. But it's mostly fleeting. Won't be missed. You'll see.

Josh Thole - B+
I really liked what he showed in his late-season callup. Won't hit for power, but has great bat control and can put together a good At-Bat that actually ends with a hit and sometimes even a run. What concerns me is that his hot start at the plate was all too reminiscent of Daniel Murphy in 2008, and that did not translate to long-term success. Remains to be seen, but I wouldn't have a problem giving Thole the everyday job at the start of 2010, assuming an established veteran is not brought in (and there are larger concerns for the Mets than Catcher, believe me).

David Wright - C+
I don't know if anyone has an adequate explanation as to why David Wright all of a sudden stopped hitting for power. At the beginning of the season, you figured it was a pretty safe bet that Wright would chalk up a .310 average, 30 HRs and 110 RBIs, without question. We instead got a .307 average, 10 HRs and 71 RBIs that he struggled to get, even before taking a Matt Cain fastball to the head in August. The drop in power is one thing. You can chalk that up to him having little to no lineup protection most of the season, I guess (or am I just kidding myself into thinking that). More alarming were his 140 strikeouts, by far and away his career high. All of a sudden, David Wright became a predictable out. You threw him a slider on the first pitch, he'd swing and miss, come inside with a fastball and he'd foul it off to the right side, and then throw the dinky slider again and watch him wave at it. Bad, bad, bad. Wright has a leadership desire and a bulldog facade, but inside, I have the feeling that he's just an insecure mess. He tries so hard and it makes him crazy when he doesn't succeed. He wears every failure on his face and sometimes I think it snowballs out of control. I don't know if it's quite so cut and dry as to say he needs more practice (Practice?). There's some other problem there that needs to be fixed if we're going to get the David Wright we were used to back in 2010.

Daniel Murphy - C
Daniel Murphy, whether it was deserved or not, ended up being the poster boy for the Mets failures in 2009. After his hot arrival in 2008, he was counted on to carry the load for the Mets in the #2 spot in the order, be that guy to grind out key hits, move runners up or even drive them in if necessary. He had the skill. He had the polish. He had a really cold streak down the stretch that everyone conveniently forgot. We wanted to believe he was more than an overglorified bench player, and whatever the organization sold us, we absolutely ate up. I pointed out, when I named Murphy one of my five key Mets, that there was a lot that could go wrong with Murphy. And a lot did. He proved himself incapable of fielding his position in the outfield, and only got a shot at 1st Base because Delgado was injured. He didn't hit like we thought he would, at least for most of the first chunk of the season, and ended up stuck with a batting average of .248 for about 3 months straight. He showed some spark late in the season, but ultimately only hit .266 for the season, and his 12 HRs embarrassingly led the team. I suppose he'll get another shot to succeed, but I have the feeling that he's not going to be the answer for this team at any particular position.

Luis Castillo - B+
I would have given him an A- were it not for this particular incident, that seemed to typify the Mets season. But in all seriousness, Castillo needs to be given a lot of credit for getting himself back together and having what was for him a respectable season. He knew he was awful in 2008, so he went out and made sure it didn't happen again. We were all skeptical, and we knew we were stuck with his contract, but at least he went out there every day (at least when he wasn't spraining his ankle walking down the dugout steps), and played respectably well, even when nobody else around him was.

Fernando Tatis - F
Chris Woodward was decent in 2005 and was brought back in 2006 and was awful. Moises Alou had a great stretch run in 2007 and parlayed that into returning to play about 10 games in 2008. Marlon Anderson had a great season in 2007, was retained for 2008 and was terrible. Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2009 "One Year Wonder that should have been let go" winner, Fernando Tatis!

Alex Cora - C-
Should not have been playing as much as he did when he ended up getting injured, and should not have been playing much after that. Supposedly a good clubhouse presence, but I refuse to believe that that should be reason enough for bringing him back for 2010. There are better non-tendered guys you can find to fill out your bench with.

Jose Reyes - B-
All of a sudden now Reyes has turned back into the brittle kid he was when he first came up. I'm inclined to think that this was just a freak injury that was mismanaged into something worse. Or maybe that's just my hope. But once Reyes went down, and once it became apparent that he wasn't coming back for the remainder of the season, no matter how hard he may have tried (and I believe he tried as hard as he could), the Mets were screwed. I'm beginning to get a little tired of people questioning his character. Yes, he often leaves you scratching your head and I think his excitement and zeal for the game more often than not gets in the way of his logic on the field. But when he plays, and when he plays well, the Mets play well. Simple as that. But if I'm wrong, and I may very well be wrong, this may finally be the season that Reyes plays himself out of New York, and other teams can stop hating us because of him.

Anderson Hernandez - C
The major midseason move to bolster an injury-riddled infield. Somehow managed to hit more than he did in his first go-around with the Mets, which isn't saying much because he didn't hit at all back then.

Carlos Delgado - B-
Out of all the injuries, this one bothered me the most because I think Delgado was just beginning to hit his stride when he went down. I was sort of looking forward to a season of Carlos Delgado laying a full-scale assault on everyone sitting in the Pepsi Porch, which probably would have happened. It was tough to say what would have happened, given how up and down he was in 2008, but considering how hot he was at the end of the season, and considering he was presumed to be healthy at the outset in 2009, there was no reason to think he would have had a major dropoff. Or that he would have been submarined by a major injury. If this is it for him with the Mets, I tip my cap to him and thank him for 2006 and the stretch run in '08.

Wilson Valdez - D+
Crappy useless retread.

Ramon Martinez - F
Did not use the excellent Speedy Gonzalez music during his at bats this year and also did not provide the same unexpected spark he did during those final desperate games last season. The latter wasn't exactly a surprise. Defensively lived up to his middle initial of E.

Nick Evans - C
Evans got off to a lousy start in AAA ball after a great spring where he got cut on the last day, but when he was recalled in June, he hit, and he made his hits count. But for some reason the Mets organization has decided that they don't like Nick Evans, and so they've decided to just let him sit and rot on the bench as opposed to letting him play, because he's more than likely better than half the garbage they trotted out there for most of the 2nd half of the season. I don't see how, exactly, this is his fault, but so be it. They liked him enough to bat him 5th in the last game of the season in 2008, but not enough to give him any kind of a shot the following season. I don't understand it.

Angel Berroa - D
Useless retread crap.

Argenis Reyes
I thought the Mets had cut him in the offseason. Then he appeared at some point and I realized I was mistaken.

Marlon Anderson
Quite literally was only kept aboard as roster filler for the first 4 games of the season before Livan Hernandez was activated. I don't know where or if he resurfaced, which is to say he did nothing noteworthy this season.

Andy Green
Walked in his first Met plate appearance and this was somehow the impetus for a standing ovation. Yes, things were that bad.

Angel Pagan - B
He looked good quite a bit of the time, and he also looked rather clueless quite a bit of the time as well. He also looked good at the outset last season, but it's easy to forget that he had come back to earth by time he got injured in May. I don't know if this translates to long-term success. I don't even know if this will translate to short-term success. But he does bring something to the team, which is more than I can say for a lot of the players they used over the course of the season. I have the feeling that, similar to Murphy, he will be exposed if he's used every day. But he could be one of those guys in the Endy Chavez vein, that is to say he'll provide a spark off the bench and plays solid defense (I believe he does play solid defense, right?). Should be back, but I don't want to hear everyone get up in arms when he's not named a starter.

Carlos Beltran - B
If only because missing 2 months wiped out what was shaping up to be an outstanding season for him. This was the year he was playing like we expected him to play every year. His numbers were great when he got hurt, and he hadn't even hit one of his ridiculous hot streaks yet. By time he returned, and he should be applauded for returning (which is a good indicator of how bad things had gotten), things were too far gone and there was too little protection for him to make much difference.

Jeff Francoeur - B
There's plenty to complain about as far as Francoeur is concerned, chief of which is the fact that he swings from his ass and doesn't walk at all. His defense is somewhat middling, and is all based on the reputation of his cannon of an arm which is only sporadically accurate. But on the other side, the change of scenery obviously worked for him because he played light years better with the Mets than he had with Atlanta. Far as the trade, it was more or less a no-brainer. I don't recall Church doing anything remarkable with Atlanta and at least Francoeur has some meager degree of upside. His down-home, Southern Boy personality somehow managed to jive in New York, and he fit right in in the clubhouse and appeared to assume a bit of a leadership role with the team. A very affable, likable guy who will probably be back, although I don't know if it's necessarily wise to consider him one of the team's new cornerstones. With hesitation, I'll give him a full season to see what he can do here, but if he's not good, I have no problem with letting him go.

Gary Sheffield - A
Gets an A because he girded up his 40-year old legs and played respectably well when he was healthy, and also to the best of my knowledge was a model citizen for most of the season except for a spat with Omar over a contract, and he diffused the situation himself before it got out of hand. Showed some glimpses of his former self at times, didn't embarrass himself at any point (at least not that I can remember), and even provided the first historical moment in Citi Field with his 500th career HR in April. Wants to come back. Wants to be a Met. I don't know, however, if the organization wants to bring him back and for that matter I don't know if he should be brought back at age 41.

Ryan Church - C-
I wish him well, but it clearly wasn't going to work for him here. The trade was, for the most part, my headache for your headache.

Jeremy Reed - D+
Annoyingly inoffensive.

Cory Sullivan - D+
I know he did something well at some point but I also know that after that he didn't do much of anything. El Guapo and I also couldn't identify his At-Bat music, but we decided it was a song by his band, Sandbag, or Grassfrog, or Asskick, or Dirtbag, or whatever the hell it's called.

Fernando Martinez - D+
Played like an overwhelmed rookie most of the time. Not ready yet. But also may not be as good as the organization wants us to believe. And right now, does anyone believe anything the organization tells us?

Emil Brown

Are you numb yet? More to come tomorrow...

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