And sadly, I don’t mean GOB Bluth, although somehow that would be appropriate too. But with all of the pratfalls that have befallen the Mets this year, from the Tony Bernazard situation and the Adam Rubin situation that grew from it, to the injuries on the field, to the ridiculous poor play, to the downright agonizing ways that this team has lost games, only an absolute masochist could truly enjoy this year’s Mets.
Here is a look at exactly what has gone wrong for this team:
- Let’s start in the offseason, when the Mets first gave Francisco Rodriguez a three year, $37 million contract. This was the biggest buyers market in years and no other big market teams were in the mix for a closer, and yet they still gave him premium money. Yet the biggest problem looms in 2012. If Frankie finishes 55 games in 2010, 100 games between 2010 and 2011, and is deemed healthy after the 2011 season, his fourth year option vests for $17.5 million.The bad news is, Frankie has been declining the past four seasons and the decline has continued this season.
- After signing Frankie, Omar Minaya shows he means business when it comes to the bullpen, sending Endy Chavez, Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, and two low minors players ahoy and receiving back JJ Putz, Jeremy Reed, and Sean Green. Reed sucks, Green has been a decent enough reliever, and we’ll get to JJ Putz in a minute.
- Somewhere around here, it was revealed that the Wilpon family lost millions of dollars (later estimated to be around $700 million) at the hands of corporate embezzler Bernie Madoff. Suddenly, the Wilpons are not as rich as they thought.
- In spite of this, Minaya offered Oliver Perez a 3 year, $36 million contract. In the first year of that contract, Oliver Perez has sturdy rates of 7.9 BB/9 and 1.6 HR/9, which included a stint on the disabled list in an effort to work himself back into shape. His ERA of 6.82, if anything, hides how truly hideous he has been. The good news is, he’s back for another two years at $12 million per season after this!
- In spring training, the Mets send 15 players to the World Baseball Classic, including 12 who would play in the major leagues. Of those 12, only Frankie Rodriguez, Pedro Feliciano, Elmer Dessens, Nelson Figueroa, and Fernando Tatis have not spent time on the disabled list this season.
- The season starts. On paper, this doesn’t seem like a bad thing. If only we knew.
- Darren O’Day is designated for assignment in mid-April so the Mets can bring up Nelson Figueroa to replace Mike Pelfrey in the rotation. Figueroa makes one start and is then designated for assignment. O’Day lands in Texas, where he has been a lights-out, shutdown reliever, better than any pitcher in the Mets’ bullpen.
- The first injuries come within a few days of each other in May. Carlos Delgado is injured in a game against the Pirates on May 10th, yet doesn’t go on the disabled list until May 16th, despite requiring hip surgery.
- Jose Reyes injures his calf in a game against the Braves on May 13th. When he misses May 14th’s game against the Giants, talk radio assumes it is a benching for not running out a ground ball or something. He pinch hits in a game on May 15th against the Giants, starts two games against the Dodgers on May 19th and 20th, then is removed from the game on the 20th. He is finally placed on the disabled list on May 26th, almost two weeks after the initial injury, and almost one week after playing his last game. Reyes has not been seen since, and apparently everybody thinks he’s a wuss for making sure he is completely healthy before returning to the field.
- During this same road trip, the Mets lose a game after Ryan Church fails to tag third base on a double to the gap by Angel Pagan, which would have given them the lead. I even liveblogged about this (scroll down to the 1:36 update). They then lose the game in the bottom of the 11th when Jeremy Reed (playing first base for only the second time in his major league career) throws a double play ball away at home plate. Incredibly, the Mets will lose two more games in more agonizing fashion.
- Ryan Church is placed on the DL on the same day as Reyes, a scant 4 days after suffering his initial injury. Progress.
- With Brian Schneider ready to come off the disabled list and the front office unwilling to risk losing Omir Santos on waivers for some reason, they trade Ramon Castro to the White Sox for Lance Broadway. Despite Broadway’s decided non-prospect status and Castro being a useful bat, this won’t even go down as the second worst trade the Mets have made in the last year.
- JJ Putz is placed on the 15 day disabled list on June 5th. As I’ve mentioned before, Dave Cameron from Fangraphs and USS Mariner pointed out on April 29th that Putz looked hurt, based on Putz’s declining strikeout rate and slower average fastball rate. Somehow, it took the Mets almost six weeks to realize this themselves despite watching Putz every single day. The team later admits that they knew he had a preexisting injury, but didn’t seem to think that was important. The team spent $27 million this season for just three members of the bullpen, two of whom wind up missing at least 3 months due to injury.
- One week later, John Maine is placed on the disabled list with right shoulder soreness. At this point, the Mets have lost their starting shortstop, first baseman, right fielder, their top set-up reliever, and their #3 and #4 starters, and only their right fielder has returned. And we’re not done yet.
- On the same day Maine is placed on the disabled list, the Mets lose to the Yankees 9-8 in a game they had been leading 8-7 with two outs in the ninth. Frankie had induced a game-ending popup that Luis Castillo inexplicably dropped. Incredibly, this was not the worst way the Mets lose a game in 2009. Castillo later earns immunity for this misstep by being the only Mets starter to remain healthy and good all season.
- Carlos Beltran is placed on the disabled list with a bone bruise on his knee. He initially had suffered the injury a month prior, kept playing on it, and kept asking for the team to check it out, before they finally bothered to give him an MRI on June 22nd. He was promptly placed on the disabled list after the MRI showed it was getting bigger. Inexplicably, the team is talking about bringing Beltran back in September, even though aggravating the injury could mean microfracture surgery that would cost Beltran a nice chunk of 2010. At this point, Wright is the only star everyday player still with the team.
- Ryan Church is traded to the Atlanta Braves for out-machine Jeff Francoeur. The amount of love from Braves fans simply for acquring a player of substance in exchange for Frenchy is probably the first sign that this will not be a good trade for the Mets.
- In late July, Mets beat writer Adam Rubin reports that Tony Bernazard tore off his shirt and challenged certain players on the Binghamton Mets to a fight for a lack of effort and hustle. As other reports from Tony Bernazard surface showing that he is not the good and decent man the Mets thought he was, the team is forced to fire him in August. Somehow, the Mets can’t even fire him correctly, as Omar Minaya challenges Rubin’s report, stating that Rubin has lobbied the Mets for a front office job in the past. This distracts from a Mets team that is falling further and further out of the playoff race.
- Gary Sheffield goes on the disabled list eight days after straining his right hamstring, just in time for the Mets to be unable to trade him at the trading deadline. When Sheffield returns from the DL, he is placed on revocable waivers, claimed by the Giants, and then pulled back when Minaya requests far too much. With the Mets out of the playoff race, yet unwilling to trade Sheffield to a contending team, Sheff rightfully questions the Mets as to what his future role is with this team. The Mets reject his request for an extension and the situation degenerates to where Sheffield is almost released for no compensation. Somehow, the Mets even bungle the easy things, like “trade 41 year old DH who isn’t in future plans for some sort of minor league depth.”
- Two starts after bringing up Jon Niese from Buffalo tears his hamstring and is out for the season. Niese had dominated AAA pitching for much of the past two and a half months and had earned a promotion long before this, but the team seemed content to keep running out the likes of Livan Hernandez and Fernando Nieve every fifth day.
- The last remaining star position player, David Wright, is placed on the disabled list after being beaned in the head and suffering a concussion. Despite all of the issues the Mets had with Ryan Church only a year before, the team seems determined to make the same exact mistakes, as Wright is due to come off the disabled list on the first date possible. Jerry Manuel uses Wright’s injury to take a shot at Church for some reason.
- The Mets finally release Livan Hernandez, despite ample evidence to suggest that he has not been a good major league pitcher for the vast majority of the season.
- The Mets activate Billy Wagner from the disabled list, and place him on revocable waivers. The team seems poised to bungle their return for him.
- The Mets, trailing 9-6 in the 9th inning against the Phillies, start a rally where they score one run and bring the winning run to the plate with no outs in the ninth. That batter, Jeff Francoeur, lines into an unassisted triple play to end the game thanks to Jerry Manuel’s brilliant aggressive baserunning strategy. The next day, Francoeur is diagnosed with torn ligaments in his non-throwing hand and yet for some reason is considered day to day. The Mets have run out of good players to lose to injury and are now losing bad ones.
- Finally, the news that the team will be skipping one of Johan Santana’s starts, as he is suffering from elbow pain that might date back to before the All Star break. Why he would continue to pitch through elbow pain when this team has been out of contention for months is beyond me.
In total, six of the Mets’ eight opening day starters have spent time on the disabled list, with only Luis Castillo and Daniel Murphy avoiding the DL. Assuming Santana winds up on the DL, three of the Mets’ five starting pitchers will have spent time on the disabled list, with Mike Pelfrey also missing a start. All four members of the vaunted Mets’ “core” will have spent time on the disabled list.
This doesn’t even discuss the sub-replacement level dreck the Mets have started for the injured players, like Cory Sullivan or Ramon Martinez. This doesn’t discuss the club’s plan to start Daniel Murphy at premium offensive positions, first left field and then first base, despite a woefully inadequate bat. This doesn’t even include the fact that Angel Pagan might be the Mets’ second best player right now, or the team’s love affair with Omir Santos.
No, this is just the trying times the Mets have had to go through this year. It’s watching helplessly as every good thing this team has going for it suffers injury after injury. It’s watching the front office act like utter buffoons, both in the transaction log and in the back pages. It’s watching this team find the absolute worst possible ways to lose a baseball game, not having the common decency to at least get blown out.
Job had his wealth taken from him and his physical health, but he never lost his faith. The Mets have had their wealth taken from them and their physical health, and Mets fans still haven’t lost faith for the future. Job’s faith was rewarded when his later days were blessed more than the beginning. Mets fans will one day be rewarded when Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel are sent packing and we get a real baseball operations group in place.
I’m not particularly religious, but I can only hope that Mets fans’ reward for our Job-like punishment of 2009 is a World Series championship in the not-too-distant future. Heck, our later days can’t help but be blessed more than our earlier ones.
Update: With the news that the Mets have traded Billy Wagner to the Red Sox for two PTBNLs, it would appear that yes, they did bungle their return for him. They could have offered him arbitration in the offseason, which he surely would have declined for the right to close for another team and make more money elsewhere, and the team would have received a first round pick and a sandwich round pick in return for him in next year’s draft. Instead, they received salary relief and organizational fodder with little upside. Well done.