Some Mid-Season Perspective
The All-Star break is not only good for players to get a break from the action, but the fans as well. Met fans are one of the more rabid fanbases and I know we have all been feeling a bit exasperated of late. There are a lot of teams that have been stumbling a bit in June/July. The Mets are not alone and though they have played badly and were unwatchable at times, they still hold a two game lead on Atlanta for the NL East lead and are only one game behind San Diego and behind only Milwaukee and San Diego for the best record in the National League. Only three teams have winning percentages over.600 (with none being over .609) in the bigs and the Mets are only five games in back of Boston for the best record in the Majors. That should certainly add a bit of perspective in regards to the current state of baseball.
While the Mets have been more exasperating than exhilarating and it is really easy to get down on this team, this is something they can turn around and fast. If you rewind to last season, the Mets owned a 53-36 record at the break and are four games behind last that pace. Would a 45-30 second half really shock us? .600 ball for the rest of the way out would have been a conservative estimate for this team a month ago and that would leave them at 93-69 for the season and more likely than not, in firm control of the NL East and possibly even the NL. I understand I'm ignoring momentum, but I have a hard time believing this team is this bad.
With Pedro and Moises set to contribute in the second half, the Mets are a Carlos Beltran hot streak away from really opening this thing back up.
"We've been very inconsistent," Wagner elaborated. "The young kids in the rotation [John Maine, Oliver Perez, Jorge Sosa] have really stepped up, but the offense has underachieved and the bullpen hasn't been putting teams away the way we did last year.
"But the positive thing is, we are in first place with a chance to improve on that. With the talent we have on the team, we should be better."
And they are better. Athough I've been negative lately, I truly believe they will play more on par with true selves during the second half and reassert themselves as the team to beat in the National League.
That does not mean he is useless, but with Lastings Milledge tearing up the baseball diamond since his return, it is hard to not make a case for him on the big league level. As exciting as Gomez was/is and the spark he was able to provide, Milledge is more big league ready. Gomez's speed and defense was refreshing and Milledge can add that same spark. I love Green off the bench and spot starting in left, in right, or at first and think Milledge should be getting some regular playing time with Alou once he returns.
A lineup with Alou, Beltran, Milledge, Wright, Reyes, Delgado, LoDuca, and Valentin would certainly be the best lineup by far in the National League. If the Mets would smarten up and eschew Valentin a bit for Gotay, then it would be even better, but they seem intent on kicking in that very expensive option for the soon to be 38 year old. Of course there is sentiment that with over exposure Gotay may shrivel a bit like Endy, but I say we will not know until see it with our own eyes. I made the statement the other day that not much could be done with this offense, but I was sort of off-base in sense. This offense could look drastically different if the Mets want to make some bold changes and I really think they should stop relying on crusty veterans and infuse some youth until they prove they cannot handle it.
Scott Kazmir, D-Rays: He has really struggled with his command in the first half, raising questions about what he is and what he is going to be.
It seems that the Mets were not entirely wrong in regards to their assessment of Scott Kazmir. Where they missed the boat was in who they traded him for. Of course, the Mets never saw a healthy Zambrano and no one will ever see that pitcher, so we will never know how the deal would have been in optimal circumstances. It's obvious that Kazmir would have helped the Mets out in '05 and '06, but it isn't a slam dunk that Kazmir turns into the pitcher everyone thought he would be.
He is still only 23 so he has a looooong time to straighten things out, but his .275 BAA and his 58 walks in 112.1 innings and his accompanying 1.58 WHIP are ugly. He could certainly still be a perennial All-Star, but he could also certainly end up moving into the bullpen. Either way, I think we are all sure it will not happen in Devil Rays uniform. He still looks like he has to work to do and he's going to be entering his arbitration years already after this season.
"I love Jose to death. He's a great ballplayer. But the way I was raised is you hit the ball, you run like hell. The umpires will tell you if it's fair or foul. When you have that type of talent and you start to play that way, you become a prima donna. And when you're a prima donna, it's not fun to be around you."
--Mets closer Billy Wagner, on Jose Reyes not running out a ball.
I'm not concerned one bit about Reyes' standing at home watching Mike Lamb run the ball over to first. He looked embarrassed then and he is frustrated by everything that is going on. Sometimes you need a wake up call and that could well of been his and maybe the entire team's. But as Steve Popper pointed out, it is not just Jose.
Manager's worst move
Singling out Jose Reyes for a lack of hustle -- only because there are at least five guys on the team who should have been called out first.
..and he again brings it out here.
But it is the troubling signs of lackadaisical play and inconsistency that will follow the Mets into the break. Jose Reyes w as singled out and yanked from the game Friday night, but he is hardly the first one to not run out a ball. The Mets seemed to sleepwalk at times through the season -- looking like a dominant team for short bursts and then like an aging fossil at other times. What rarely has surfaced has been the hunger that would have been expected after the disappointing end to the 2006 season.
Isn't that inconsistent and lackadaisical play on Willie's head? Isn't that what he excels at? The only think Willie could be lauded for in his brief tenure with the Mets was that. Without his trait of being able to get the players to play the game right and play for him, you have Art Howe. Personally, I still think Willie will have little to do with any possible renaissance and I do wonder if Omar is thinking that deal through 2009 is looking like a great idea right about now.