Getting Late Early
Oh, it is getting ugly.
In balance, this was a good day for the tattered relationship between the Mets and their fans. But because it was played in the cauldron of coiled anger and hatred that Shea has become, it had its ups and downs.
Most of them centered on Carlos Delgado. They booed when his name was announced as a member of the starting lineup. They cheered after his first home run. They asked for a curtain call after his second, and he refused. Some of them booed then, but most seemed to understand.
There's a lot of work to do here. The Mets and their fans are going to spend this season in couples counseling, and both sides are going to have to do their part. The team can help by grinding out workmanlike wins like the ones they got the past two days -- against the Braves, with clutch hits, solid defense and good late-inning relief work. The fans could help by occasionally letting the team know, with the odd "Let's Go Mets" chant or even an unrequited demand for a curtain call, that they still do want to see them do well.
It is never a good scene when the fans and players are at odds. It has happened with Beltran before when he refused curtain calls and it is happening now and I would tend to think Delgado is not alone in his displeasure with the fans. Sure, the Mets have been disappointing so far, but they are still in 2nd place and in striking distance of first place.
Some guys seem to think that a .500 team 25 games into the season is an egregious thing. Give it time. If they are still wallowing around .500 and looking average in another month, then maybe it is clear some things need changing.
One person familiar with Fred and Jeff Wilpon's philosophy says "the honeymoon is over" for both the manager and general manager. That means the Mets have to do more than simply remain competitive with a mediocre field in the National League. With a $140 million payroll, the Mets should be good enough to run away from the rest of the East; that's the consensus from the franchise's highest echelons. That's why a win over the Braves was symbolically important to the Mets, because it reminded everyone in the clubhouse what efficient baseball feels like.
They have allowed the 9th fewest runs as a team in the bigs and are 6th in the NL. They have the10th best run differential in the big leagues and the 7th best run differential in the NL. The Mets offense has been very disappointing, but Reyes got off to a slow start and I think that aspect of the Mets has some significant room for growth.
My perfect season would go something like this:
1) Mets continue to be average
2) Willie gets fired after 50 games
3) Oberkefell or Carters takes over
4) Mets play .600 ball thereafter with Alou in the lineup and Pedro in the rotation
I think the fans need to throttle back and put things in perspective a bit. The last thing any Met fans need is the players not liking the fans and having some bad blood. I get that people are upset because of some high expectations that are not getting fulfilled, but did I miss where the Mets stunk it up completely? I think Delgado and Heilman have flat out sucked, but I think drawing the ire of the fans this early and in this manner is a bit ridiculous.
Delgado could have tried to repair the situation by acknowledging the crowd, but he did not and I think that is a mistake. Also, he might want to start hitting better if he wants the spotlight taken off of him or Willie really just needs to burry him in the 7th spot until he proves Sunday was not a fluke. Regardless of how shitty Delgado is playing, booing a 2nd place team should not get done. I think this divide between the fans and the team is going to wider unless the Mets go on a tear soon which does not seem likely right now. We will know things have gotten bad if Wright stops being Sugary about the topic and thankfully we are not there yet....the operative word there is yet.
If 20 strikeouts in his previous two starts seduced some into thinking John Smoltz might go on like this forever, Sunday served as a reminder that it can't.
Even the bearded Braves icon can't ignore pain and keep mowing down hitters in perpetuity. Now he'll have his sore shoulder checked to see how bad the wear and tear has become and whether he needs to take some more time off.
He was so good prior to Sunday that some of the fears about this shoulder had been allayed, but the concerns are back. If the Braves are going to have any shot, they need him to be healthy.
The central question: Do the Giants continue to let Barry Zito get his brains beaten every time he takes the mound, or do they take what certainly will be an embarrassing public-relations hit and remove their $126 million pitcher from the rotation and try to get him right?
.336 BAA, 1.95 WHIP, 7.53 ERA, 3.45 k/9, and .73 k/bb. That could of been the Mets $75 million dollar mistake so everyone take a deep breath and thank the baseball gods.
Normally, the righthander's fastball tops out in the low-to-mid 90s. For most of the season, including yesterday's loss, it hasn't cracked 89.
"I haven't seen a fastball," Manuel said. "It topped out today at 89. Myers is usually 92-95, somewhere in there. I haven't seen the fastball since the start of the season."
His 5.11 ERA is ugly.
But Delgado spoke with David Wright, wandered over and sat down next to Carlos Beltran, leaving the fans hanging until they sat down, too. So even on a day that was his best of the season and a win that the team needed, the questions still hung in the air – where was this tenuous relationship headed?
"First, it surprised me," Delgado said. "Is it for me? What did I do? The way I look at it, fans here are passionate. Sometimes you never know what they're going to do. You hit a home run [and] you have respect for the game. You shake hands with your friends. You don't want to show anybody up. The game goes on. That's the way I felt. I hit a solo home run in the seventh inning. We had a two-run lead and went to a three-run lead. Yeah, it's a big run, but what are you going to do?"
He gets the idea of a curtain call and that is not showing anyone up. That is between you and the fans. Nice try, but I ain't buying what you are selling.
Delgado insisted afterward this was no statement. But it was the strongest one yet to define this current reality: Met fans don't like this team too much and the players don't like the fans, either. If there are more days like yesterday and more weekends such as this one, when the Mets recover from a Friday loss to beat co-aces Tim Hudson and John Smoltz, perhaps the relationship can heal.
Winning a lot heals all, but the players will probably not forget.
"To some extent it is overdone," Billy Wagner said of the disapproval at Shea that comes quickly and loud. He added, "I think it gets a little malicious with no reason for us."
As Sherman said, at the first sign of trouble, the booing commences. It could be in the first inning and it could be when the team is winning in the fifth. However, when there is a sniff of some trouble, you can be sure that that the fans will turn.
"It's been fun. I've always had a rough time in April since I signed," said Carp, a ninth-round pick out of Lakewood (Calif.) High in 2004 who had a .232 average during the opening month of his first three full pro seasons. "This year I wanted to prove to the Mets last year was a fluke."
He has been hitting lefties just as well as he is hitting righties, which is a great sign. The six homers he has hit this season in 24 games is more than half of what he hit in 98 games last season and it seems that he is back on track.