This is #2 of 5 Key Mets Players for the 2010 Season.
This is the 4th season that The Ballclub has been naming their 5 Key Mets Players for the upcoming season, and this is now the 3rd time that I've had to name John Maine as one of those Key Mets. It's become a bit of a repetitive pattern that I'm starting to get a little tired of.
It's been a long time since Maine was giving us that "Aw, shucks" look in the Outfield prior to starting Game 1 of the NLDS in '06. Since then, Maine has tantalized us and then baffled us, to the point where I considered him at an official crossroads following a 2nd straight injury-plagued season in 2009, someone who, like most of the team, we've been sold high on based on what was basically an exceptional half season in 2007.
I'd like to think I'm wrong. But Maine has, to this point, yet to prove me right. We know what he's capable of when he's healthy, he's someone who certainly has shown he's capable of being a solid starter. But does he have the ability to hold up? Moreover, Maine has this tendency to be so down on himself when he doesn't do well, that you're also left wondering if he really has the mental makeup to succeed, or if this stuff is piling up in his head and somehow holding him back. It's a far cry from the kid I considered to have "Saturn Balls" following a pair of ice-in-the-veins performances in the '06 Postseason.
Maine is in a rather similar situation to Oliver Perez, although it's a bit more precarious considering that Maine has not only battled inconsistency, he's battled injuries for two years now, and he lacks the security of tenure and a guaranteed contract. On the upside, he's not viewed as quite the albatross that Perez is, because most people seem to point to the fact that he's been injured so often.
But, then, that's what makes him so key.
Like Perez, the Mets are basically handing him a starting spot without any real backup plan. And not only has he been injured, but when he's healthy, he's only been somewhat effective over the past 2 years. There are flashes of brilliance, but more often than not, it seems like he's making those annoying 5-6 inning starts where he gives up 3 runs and leaves because he's walked too many guys or couldn't put a batter away with 2 strikes. He's not quite so maddeningly or spectacularly ineffective as Perez, so we don't seem to notice it quite as much, but it's there, and right now it's a little too much to simply ignore it. If it happens to start up again, the Mets are in quite a bit of trouble. We saw a bit of it just yesterday, when Maine came into the game against the Marlins, got 2 quick outs, and then followed that up by giving up 3 walks, 3 hits and 5 runs in an inning that basically sunk the Mets.
Surprisingly, Maine came away from this particular outing rather pleased, which is odd because a) there wasn't much to be pleased about and b) Maine usually treats these bad outings as though they were the end of the world. Shirts vs. Blouses gave Maine the "Death Cab for John Maine" nickname 2 years ago, for what reason, I'm not quite sure. But it seems to fit him because of his hangdog, almost depressive nature when things go bad for him. I almost think he should switch his entrance music from "Seek and Destroy" to something a bit more appropriate like "Marching Bands of Manhattan" or even "Black Hole Sun." Just tell it like it is a bit more if that's how the story's going to end. After a string of 8 or 9 straight 6IP, 6H, 3ER, 5BB, 5K outings, I think we're all ready for some Death Cab.
Of course, there's one other thing he could do. He could get his act together, pitch like we know he's capable of pitching, put up another 15-win, 3.80 ERA season and finally solidify the #3 spot in the rotation. Get your name off of Stephen Colbert's board up there.
I really don't know which one we're going to get. That's part of the problem.