Mets 2011 End of Season Review
NOTE: This is a guest post by Joe Spector, who has concluded that the Mets season is, for all intents and purposes, over.
This has become an annual bad habit for us hasn’t it? It’s not even Labor Day and Met fans instinctively are talking about next year, something all too familiar the past 4 years. August and September baseball for Met fans – or as it’s become known as – The big yet not so surprising let down that you’ve been expecting all year long but didn’t quite want to admit it because you have faith, sort of, time of the season. Yeah that’s it. Ring a bell?
It has the same disheartening feeling you’d get as a child when department stores started running Back-To-School specials. If you saw Jerry Lewis on TV, he was most likely wearing a tuxedo with a tousled and unbuttoned bow tie, barely an hour into his telethon. Right there you knew homework was creeping its way around the corner in a few days, ready to impolitely chew its way into your busy schedule of bike riding and sandlot baseball with your friends. Damn I hated reality.
I’m probably considered to be someone who has always had a good deal of faith in this team. I still do in fact. Now for some, having faith means thinking this team would magically make the playoffs and who knows what beyond that. Don’t get me wrong, I too thought in a perfect world, if key players on the team stayed relatively healthy and played to their normal expectations they would at least – emphasis on at least – have a chance to compete for the Wild Card. Of course when that pesky reality kicks in, you tend to realize that simply playing hard and with a strong sense of desire isn’t nearly the same as executing results that lead to wins. Wins. You know, those annoying things our team lacks.
This team for all its faults has been entertaining. A great deal of that credit should go to Terry Collins whom I was initially dead set against his hiring this past off-season. I wasn’t necessarily in favor of Wally Backman as many of us out there were. I was more put off by the fact that Collins quit his last two managerial posts. Quitting doesn’t sit well with me whatever the reason. It’s safe to say he’s made me a convert. His managerial style seems to be a good blend of tough but reasonable expectations of his players and his solid in game decisions which have garnered praise on more than a few occasions by former players and current SNY broadcasters Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling.
Collin’s doesn’t come off as being more concerned with trying to be his player’s best friend but nevertheless I’m sure he’s earned their respect. If I had to grade him I’d conservatively give Terry Collins a B+ just for keeping this team focused despite the merry-go-round of off and on-field controversies. So be it that this team has been a tease, hovering around the .500 mark all season. Realistically I thought this team as constructed would top out at around 85 wins but most likely stay around the .500 mark, while being healthy that is.
I predicted that Johan Santana would not pitch this season. Now I hope to be proved wrong on that but his effort to return was cut short after he recently had some “discomfort” after his first minor league rehab outing. An injury to a pitcher’s shoulder is akin to breaking the hand of a neurosurgeon. It could easily spell an early exit to one’s career. Hopefully his “discomfort” was merely muscle fatigue and scar tissue tearing and not further damage to his shoulder. The intricate nature of the muscular system of a human shoulder is really a minefield of potential damage for a pitcher. Johan arguably would have been better off requiring Tommy John surgery on his elbow than have any issues with his shoulder. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
The rest of the pitching staff has basically pitched according to their norms. It’s safe to say there are no real standouts this year as last year’s standout R.A. Dickey has earned this year’s award for hard luck Mets pitcher of the year. His record belies the way he has pitched this season. Jon Niese still shows signs of brilliance mixed with moments of inexperience but that is to be expected. Most Met fans have come to accept that Mike Pelfrey simply is what he is and if he someday “gets” it, chances are it’s probably not going to be in a Met uniform, especially if his agent makes unreasonable demands this off-season when Pelfrey becomes a free agent.
Couple his inconsistent development with his apparent lack of confidence in his team – as he told Mike Puma of the New York Post in an interview – and I’m sure no matter what they may say publicly, privately I’m sure it’s bothered some in the organization. Especially since the comments were made at the beginning of the season, when the team was relatively healthy and had its best chance to win. Dillon Gee has been a pleasant surprise who needs to continue developing his secondary pitches in order to keep hitters off balance. He definitely has a future with this team but it’s all about his ability to continue developing. If he takes the Mike Pelfrey approach it’s going to be a long road for Mr. Gee.
The bullpen has really two bright spots in Pedro Beato and Bobby Parnell. The rest you could put in a hat and pull a name and it wouldn’t really make a difference. I don’t include Izzy in that assessment since he’s essentially the player/coach in the pen. Hopefully he’s been able to rub off on both Parnell and Beato.
Offensively the team has at times mimicked its won and loss record, performing weeks at a time at unprecedented levels followed by weeks of flaccid, head shaking ineptness. Jose Reyes has been the anchor, clearly the team MVP, providing spark and excitement that will probably translate into one ridiculously immense contract this off-season. The question is will it be the Mets who offer it? His propensity for leg injuries will no doubt play a part in how much Reyes is offered. He and his agent may shoot for the moon but financial reality in and around MLB may keep his contract somewhat grounded. Realistically there just a handful of teams that can even afford Reyes, limiting his Powerball contract hopes. It’s going to be about who’s willing to risk that much money on Jose’s fragile legs and most importantly, for how long?
David Wright’s last few seasons have been marred by injury and poor play. Yes it’s true he hasn’t been the same player he was prior to the last few years. The again, since his return back from his back injury he’s finally moved closer to the plate – something I think every Met fan has been screaming for him to do for the longest time. His approach has been reminiscent of his early years and he’s definitely swinging through the ball much more than his recent trademark uppercut that drives Keith Hernandez up a wall in the booth. What does that mean in reality? Well since his return his numbers speak for themselves. Now can he continue to adhere to this adjustment and not fall into bad habits again? Perhaps bringing the fences in slightly will provide him and others that psychological crutch that CitiField hasn’t been able to offer so far. Only time will tell.
Ike Davis’ 2011 season has been an unfortunate waste. When he and Wright collided on what looked like two players clumsily bumping into each other on a routine pop up, it turned out to be a season ender for Davis. It made me think of the time Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron cracked skulls in their infamous outfield collision few years back. You’d think in comparison that collision would have had caused far greater damage than it did. Go figure. Ike was showing tremendous improvement at the plate prior to the accident. If he chooses surgery, which at this point would make sense, he should be ready to go by Spring Training 2012.
What better to complement our Greek tragedy of a franchise than to have a hydra at second base? The trio of Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada have made the transition from Luis Castillo as painless (forgive me Daniel Murphy) as possible. All of them bring their own pluses and minuses to the table and in the end, in spite of their combined issues, they’re all an upgrade over their replacement Castillo, period. Will one eventually transcend the back of their baseball cards and elevate their game? My money is on Tejada.
The outfield. Where to begin? Now with Beltran gone its safe to say if the Mets didn’t have one of the weakest outfields in MLB before, they sure do now.
Jason Bay seems to have elevated his little league game to a AAA level now. It was either he figure a way to improve or get sized for a Mr. Met head. In all seriousness he has improved at the plate but again it all depends on your expectations of Bay. Yes this Jason Bay has improved over what we’ve seen in the two years he’s been a Met. But is Jason Bay 2.0 ever going to resemble the power hitter we paid a ransom for 2 years ago? I just don’t see the bat speed where it should be. Blame it on age or injury or what have you it’s just not there. Seeing Bay swing as if he carrying a lacquered redwood in his hands is just plain sad.
For a front office that stresses the importance of dissecting the proper value in a player, it seems to be such a waste that Alderson and his team couldn’t move Angel Pagan when his value was at its highest this past off-season. Granted I’m sure he wanted to evaluate Pagan for himself but Angel Pagan is still a fourth outfielder on a really good team. On the Mets he’s our starting Centerfielder. When I think of Angel Pagan I think of two words, Daryl Boston. Good player but not a starter. Reality people.
Yes Lucas Duda looks like Adam Dunn’s younger surfer brother and we should be thanking Jobu that he doesn’t hit like him. We know the Mets need a thumper desperately in this lineup. What the Mets do not need is a 21st century version of Dave Kingman. Duda reminds me of the Hulk trying to act like more like a Bruce Banner. I’m sure if he wanted, Duda probably could swing for the fences with every swing and chances are his natural power would eventually allow him to walk into a few. The problem is the cost of swinging so irresponsibly and I have a feeling that hitting coach Dave Hudgens has stressed bat control to Duda. He’s at the age, 25, where what you see is what you get and so far, with the added playing time, it’s hard not to like the dude.
Josh Thole is a capable receiver. Again he too is at the age where he is what he is and there’s little chance that come 2012, Josh Thole will come to Port St. Lucie performing like Joe Mauer. Accepting that as a reality there are many areas he can improve especially defensively. In fact I have a feeling Terry Collin’s wouldn’t mind one bit if Thole’s learning curve leaned heavily towards improving his defensive skills.
I know it seems far too early to do an end of season assessment of the New York Mets. There are 40 games left in the season, well over a month of play. In that time the Mets would have to win 22 games just to get to .500. They would have to win 31 or 40 to end the season with 90 wins. That’s .775 baseball. In another words, it’s not reality. Sure I want them to win and I believe in them. But I don’t believe in fairies or pixie dust or Santa and the Easter Bunny. Those days are gone for me. For better or worse. I’ve taken the red pill, even if I did kicking and screaming. Damn I hate reality, and the months of August and September. Come to think about it – October hasn’t been kind to us either.