Mets COO Jeff Wilpon believes the Mets were OVERachievers this year, if you can believe that. See this quote from ESPN:
“I think we underachieved last year and I think we overachieved this year,” said Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon. “It’s nothing against our second baseman today — look who our second baseman was, look who our left fielder was, look who was in the bullpen. No Billy Wagner, no John Maine — you can go right down the list to what happened.”
In other words, Jeff Wilpon didn’t think much of Willie Randolph. More evidence that Randolph NEVER had the support of the Mets’ front office, and that Jeffy boy has fully entrusted the organization to that baseball genius known as Tony Bernazard. But I’ll get off that subject quickly since people don’t like to hear about that side of the ugliness.
Rather, let’s focus on Wilpon’s quote, which is stunningly similar to another we heard from a New York baseball executive earlier in the month:
“They’re trying hard to win. There’s only so much you can do. They’re not supermen.”
[…]”I think it’s very simple, we’ve been devastated by injuries,” Steinbrenner said. “No team I’ve ever seen in baseball has been decimated like this. It would kill any team. Imagine the Red Sox without Beckett and Lester. Pitching is 70 percent of the game. Wang won 19 games two straight years. Chamberlain became the most dominating pitcher in baseball. You can’t lose two guys like that.”
Funny how the Mets are always following their crosstown rivals, and looking to them for inspiration. Even in losing, they take the Yankees’ cue.
Even funnier, that Wilpon specifically points out second base, left field, and the bullpen. The Mets’ front office bid against themselves in signing a hobbled Luis Castillo to a ridiculous 4-year contract. They also re-signed the perpetually injured Moises Alou, expected him to play at least 100 games, and made NO move to guard against the inevitable (sorry, Angel Pagan is hardly a security blanket for a .300 hitter and one of the best RBI men in baseball). The front office also did not address a bullpen issue that was glaring THIS TIME LAST YEAR. Further, when the bullpen continued to be a problem — something that was evident to everyone by June — the front office made absolutely no attempt at a solution. Huston Street, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch, Chad Bradford, Jamie Walker, and a dozen others were available before, at, and after the trade deadline, yet all the Mets could come up with was Luis Ayala. In an interview yesterday, Brand Manager Omar Minaya reiterated that same, tired, old excuse we’ve been hearing for months — that “no one was available”. In spite of this, several playoff-contending teams managed to acquire pitchers from June through September.
Remarkably, other teams who have made the postseason suffered similar, if not more debilitating, losses to their personnel. The Tampa Bay Rays, for example, lost their closer — just like the Mets did — yet their bullpen did not completely collapse. The Rays also lost All-Stars Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria for significant periods. Ace pitcher Scott Kazimir spent time on the DL, as did their starting shortstop, their catcher, and their slugging first baseman Carlos Pena. Their main setup man, Al Reyes, was hurt all year and wound up being released (and signed by the Mets) — yet their bullpen was able to pick up the slack. And Longoria replaced their original starting third baseman, who also suffered an injury.
You can “go right down the list to what happened” with the Rays, yet they finished with one of the best records in baseball. Huh.
The team that finished second to them, the Red Sox, lost the following players to the DL during the season: Beckett, Mike Lowell, Tim Wakefield, JD Drew, Julio Lugo, David Ortiz, Mike Timlin, Sean Casey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Bartolo Colon, Clay Buchholz, David Aardsma, and Brandon Moss. Not to mention that Curt Schilling was lost for the year, Manny Ramirez was traded, and Jason Varitek suffered through a season-long slump, hitting .220. Yet somehow they muddled through and won the wild card by six full games.
But those were AL teams … so let’s take a look at the best team in the NL, the Cubs. They began the season without a centerfielder and a question mark at closer. There were periods in the season when they did not have ace Carlos Zambrano, closer Kerry Wood, slugger Alfonso Soriano, and eventual centerfielder Reed Johnson. LOOGY Scott Eyre was on and off the DL before being sent to the Phillies. Pitchers Angel Guzman, Jon Lieber, Chad Fox, and Rich Hill all lost time.
And then there are the Phillies — the team that outlasted the Mets. Reigning MVP Jimmy Rollins was lost for a month, and had a terrible slump plus issues with discipline and the fans. They began the season without Brad Lidge. Outfielders Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, and Geoff Jenkins all spent time on the DL. Third baseman Pedro Feliz battled back issues all season. Setup man Tom Gordon was lost for half the year. Their starting rotation, after Cole Hamels, was a complete disaster all year long. Brett Myers spent time in the minors, Kyle Kendrick suffered the sophomore jinx, and Adam Eaton had an ERA around six. All this, yet somehow, some way, the Phillies won the NL East. Go figure.
Bottom line: the idea that the Mets overachieved is crap. You can’t underachieve in April, May, and June, and then suddenly overachieve in July, August, and September. You can’t be in first place by three games with 17 left to play, then go 7-10 to get knocked down to second place and out of the playoffs, and say your team overachieved.
Finally, you cannot say your team underachieved in 2007, add the best pitcher in baseball to it, and then proclaim that the same team, now armed with the ace that was supposed to prevent a late-season collapse, overachieved. Sorry, you can’t have it both ways.
The Mets UNDERachieved. Everyone close to and far from the team can see that — unfortunately, it appears that those inside the team are myopic.