Underdog Role

Underdog_mets.jpgSo the Mets have fallen to second place, after a lackluster two games in DC. They’re not flat, though, so no worries — they’re just not hitting, according to Jerry Manuel. Whatever that means.

To add injury to insult, the Mets have lost starting left fielder Fernando Tatis for the remainder of the season. He joins closer Billy Wagner and previous starting left fielder Moises Alou on the season-ending DL, which John Maine may or may not be part of. We assume Orlando Hernandez is also on the DL, but since we haven’t heard hide nor hair from him since March, it’s anyone’s guess.

Let’s step back for a moment. The Mets are without:

1. Their starting left fielder, and the starting left fielder who replaced him.

2. A closer.

3. A reliable arm in the bullpen.

4. Their #2 or #3 starter, depending on who you talk to.

5. A healthy, MLB-caliber second baseman.

6. A legitimate, MLB-caliber fifth starter.

In addition, their starting catcher is wobbling on weak knees, and their #3 and #4 starters are suddenly question marks.

As Mets fans, we can look at this in one of two ways. We can either cry in our beer, claim woe is us, and worry that the Mets will re-construct (destruct?) their 2007 collapse. Or, we can be REAL Mets fans, expect the worst, and be pleasantly surprised if they find their way to the playoffs.

Yeah, I know … it’s hard to expect nothing from a team full of stars, and equally difficult to term a club with a $140M payroll as an underdog. But it’s in line with the team’s oft-beleaguered history, and will help deal with what is sure to be an excruciatingly stressful two weeks.

There is one good thing: Milwaukee’s firing of manager Ned Yost would suggest that the team is mailing it in for the remainder of the season. Either that or they really believe such a change could spark the Brewers to a wild card berth. If so, it’s a tremendous gamble at this point of the season, and I’m betting on them falling short, which should push the second-place team in the NL East into the postseason. Of course, there’s an outside shot that the Astros (believe it or not) could pull off a miracle — they’re only three games out of the race — but it would take a, um, collapse of colossal proportions by the Mets to allow that to happen.

So no worries … if the Mets don’t win the NL East, no big deal — they’re almost a cinch to get the wild card. And if they do get into the playoffs that way, they’re guaranteed NOT to be the favorite — the familiar role of underdog will once again describe the boys from Flushing.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. upson September 17, 2008 at 11:22 am
    Well, it’s hard to stay positive at this stage — after wasting Santana’s, Perez’s and Pelfrey’s excellent starts. Everything seems to go wrong direction. I tried hard to come up with a few positive things:

    (1) We are still even with the Phillies in the loss column.

    (2) Wright – Beltran – Delgado can be only be better than last two nights. (Same goes for Reyes – Church.)

    (3) We will see more of Murphy in the remaining games.

    (4) Bullpen should be relatively well rested right now. Of course, I’m referring to Figueroa, Stokes, Rincon, Parnell and perhaps Reyes here.

    (5) Joe Smith has been excellent recently and, if used wisely, can deliver crucial outs.

    (6) Our defense is still very good.

    (7) Niese will be given at least two more starts.

    (8) We will get an unexpected sparkling victory from Knight today.

    While all of above is pretty weak, there are few other things beyond their control playing for the Mets:

    (1) The Phillies will have to use Happ and Blanton twice till the end of the season. (Oh wait, we will have to use our #5–#8 starters five times during the same span. Nevermind.)

    (2) The Phillies starting pitching and bullpen has to be deadly tired at this time. They are using their starters on short rest and playing with same 4-6 guys from the bullpen everyday. They simply have to blow a couple of games down the stretch.

    (3) Lidge has to blow at least one save this year. The guy is very good but still also a bit lucky. It seems to me that everytime I see him closing, he allows for at least 2 baserunners… and yet somehow manages to get the save. (Yesterday, Atlanta had bases loaded in the 9th.)

    (4) We actually do not need to beat the Phillies to get to the post-season.

    (5) The Marlins are playing very well recently. Hopefully, they will stop the Astros entirely and then help with the Phillies as well.

    (6) Sabathia lost yesterday. The Brewers are unlikely to do better than 7-4 in the remaining games (currently it looks more like 5-6).

    I tried hard but this is all I got. The list against would be much longer. The bottomline is, we have to win today and the Phillies better lose today (with J.A., we have a chance). We need Braves to win at least a game against the Phillies, b/c we are playing in Atlanta after the Phillies and it’s hard to play against a team that just got swept.