Last week, I mentioned how, following the injury to Carlos Beltran, there wasn’t much worth watching with the Mets for at least two weeks. The Mets then proved me wrong against the Cardinals, thanks to some good pitching out of the starters, before regressing to form against the Yankees, playing uninspired baseball thanks to an uninspired lineup. Chien Mien Wang, who had an ERA north of 30 earlier in the season, dominated the Mets’ B squad for much of the game, allowing only 2 runs on 4 hits, and only one extra base hit. This should come as a surprise to nobody.
Yet the Yankee series, because of the local connections, seems to be causing a massive freakout that really should have happened last week, you know, when Carlos Beltran was placed on the disabled list. “THIS TEAM CAN’T HIT!” Folks are now assigning blame ranging from hitting coach Howard Johnson to their usual suspect, David Wright. It’s as if nobody has stopped to think, “Hey wait a second! Three quarters of the team’s best hitters are on the disabled list! Most of the other hitters stink when they’re healthy! This team basically only has David Wright and that’s it!”
I mean, seriously…David Wright is the only good hitter in this lineup right now. Gary Sheffield is above average, I guess, thanks to his power and patience, but he’s such a negative in the field that he erases all of his bat contributions. Ryan Church hasn’t been a very good hitter ever since receiving the concussion last year (and truth be told, he was due to regress in a big way anyway, he had been hitting totally over his head before the injury). Daniel Murphy is OPSing under .700 and playing a premium offensive position every day…well, sort of. He desperately needs to be sent to Buffalo where he won’t have to worry about Jerry Manuel yanking around his playing time, but that doesn’t appear to be on anybody’s radar.
Did anybody really expect a lineup that features a Brian Schneider/Omir Santos platoon, Alex Cora, Luis Castillo, and regular at-bats for Fernando Tatis to really score runs on even a semi-regular basis? Why are we going to blame Howard Johnson for this team not hitting well when the team doesn’t employ any good hitters, other than David Wright? The only regulars OPSing north of .700 right now are Wright, Sheffield, Luis Castillo (thanks to a .375 OBP), Brian Schneider (thanks to a .417 SLG) and Omir Santos (thanks to a .432 SLG). I don’t care if you’re the 1986 Mets, if you take 3 of your team’s 4 best hitters (without even accounting for Beltran and Reyes’ defensive value), you are not going to have a very good team. Imagine how many runs the ‘86 Mets would have scored without Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, and Lenny Dykstra. That’s what we’re working with right now.
If this team proves anything, it should be how the 2008 Mets were simultaneously both incredibly lucky and incredibly unlucky. The 2008 Mets saw 161 games of Beltran, 160 games of Wright, and 159 games of Delgado and Reyes. They lost a total of 9 games out of their four best players, which is remarkably lucky. This season, they had surpassed that total of games missed by May. The Mets were blessed with ridiculously fortunate health by their four best everyday players and Johan Santana, and yet still failed to make the playoffs thanks to a criminally horrible bullpen.
Even with an improved bullpen this season, I don’t see how anybody can have any expectations of playoffs with 3 of the team’s 4 best players now out for an extended period of time, with no timetable for their return, with the worst medical staff in the major leagues looking after them. If you don’t score runs, and if your defense can’t prevent runs from scoring, you can’t win games. The moment Beltran went down, expectations for this team should have taken a big hit. This is just not a winning team without the stars, and to continue to have playoff expectations for this roster is mind-boggling to me.