It’s less than a full month into the season and normally I’m the first person to say, “it’s too early to panic.” Seriously, I am. But this is an exception. IT IS TIME TO PANIC.
And here’s why:
After today’s sorry loss to the Cubs (8-1), the Mets have now lost nine games. Of those nine games, the Mets have fallen behind early and failed to score more than 1 run five times. That is ugly. The simple fact is this: when this team gets down, they give up. Don’t believe me? Take a look.
APRIL 6 @ ATLANTA: The offense is shut down by John Smoltz. No big deal, right? Smoltz is still a great pitcher, a true ace, and losing to him is not a big deal. But Smoltz only pitches 5 innings, and Mets fail to do anything productive off of the less-than-impressive Braves bullpen. They squeak out a single run in the 9th but that’s only because David Write is great. Final score: 3-1, Braves.
APRIL 8 vs. PHILADELPHIA: The boys in blue and orange lead 2-0 on a solo HR by Delgado (this was his last positive contribution to the team) and a fielder’s choice by Ryan Church. But that’s it. After Church’s RBI (which is an RBI on paper, but the dribbler was barely touched by his bat) the Mets scored nothing after the 4th inning. The could not scratch out a run off of an ancient Jamie Moyer or the “terrible” Philly bullpen (Gordon, Romero, and Chad Durbin). What’s worse is that they left runners in scoring position in the 5th, 7th, and 8th innings! Once again, they simply gave up on trying to score. Final score: 5-2, Phillies.
APRIL 12 vs. MILWAUKEE: Again, the Mets scored 2 early (both in the first inning) but then they failed to score more than a single run the rest of the game. This was Santana’s homecoming, and, while he wasn’t light’s out, he was still good enough to win. But the Mets couldn’t score anything against Ben Sheets, despite being very hittable. They left runners in scoring position in the 1st and 2nd innings, and then proceeded to do nothing the rest of the way. Final score: 5-3, Brewers.
APRIL 21 vs. CHICAGO: The Cubs jump out and go head by 2 in the 4th inning, and once they’re behind, the Mets just stop. The offense is anemic, scoring just one lone run. Reyes led off the game with a single, and if I had known that this would be the high point of the game, I would have stopped watching right then. Final score: 7-1, Cubs.
APRIL 22 vs. CHICAGO: This was a repeat performance of the game on the 21st. The Mets fall behind by 3 after the 4th inning, and again manage only 1 single run. That’s it. This, just like the day before, was a winnable game; the underwhelming Mets bullpen gave up runs late and put the game out of reach, but had the offense found a way to get something—anything—done earlier, it would have been an entirely different ballgame. Final score: 8-1, Cubs.
So what’s the point to all of this? Simple: The Mets seem to be lacking a sense of caring. The heart just isn’t there. It’s what was missing last year and it seems to be missing already now this year. People will tell you that the bullpen blew it for them in September of last year; others will say it was the manager’s fault; I say it was a lack of heart. I didn’t like the team that lost those games, but not because I’m not loyal or because they were losing or because I’m a fair-weather fan. I didn’t like that team because they just looked like they gave up. The Phillies deserved to win last year because they never gave up: they came from behind a ridiculous number of times last year because they had heart. This team, the 2008 incarnation of the New York Mets, so far, has no heart. And if this keeps up, it’s only going to get harder and harder to root for them.
I say this to my students all the time (I’m a teacher): I will work as hard for you as you will for yourself, but I won’t work harder. The same thing applies: I refuse to care more about the Mets wins and loses than the players on the team. They need to show that they actually care or they’re in danger of another disappointing season.