The writers, bloggers, talk radio personalities, and other pundits have come up with a long list of reasons why the Mets have faltered so dramatically in the past few weeks. Such points as Willie Randolph’s managing; Omar Minaya’s inability to get the right personnel; the exhaustion of Jose Reyes; the gasoline the relievers have been pouring on the fires; and myriad other explanations have been pointed out as the reasoning behind their downfall. But everyone is missing one major factor:
They’ve been outnumbered.
It’s true, and it’s as plain as day — kind of not seeing the forest for the trees (or however that saying goes). Take a look at a boxscore from the last two weeks — any boxscore, from any game, be it a Mets game or someone else’s. You’ll see an unusually long list of players in the lineup, and a similarly lengthy string of pitchers that often threatens double digits — and the majority of the names are of those you’ve never heard before. Now, take a look at the Mets’ side of the boxscore. Huh. Same names as April and May. Eureka! The rest of Major League Baseball has been playing with 40 men, while the Mets continue to stick to their 25!
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I checked the Mets “active” roster and it appears that 37 men are dressing for the game. But apparently, Willie wasn’t aware he could actually USE all 37 until very recently, when someone let him know that the kid with “Humber” stitched across his back was, indeed, eligible (good thing, too, because Willie was thinking that Dave Williams was his only option).
While the Nationals have trotted out eight, nine, ten pitchers per game — most of whom I’ve never seen before — the Mets continue to push out the usual suspects (Schoeneweis, Smith, Mota, Feliciano, Heilman) day after day after day after day. Willie says you can’t force-feed the babies, because they’ve “never done it before”. Done what? Pitch a baseball? What the heck have they been doing from mid-February to September, then? Playing stickball? All he needed to do was take a look across town, where youngins’ like Joba Chamberlain, Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Jeff Karstens are taking the ball in the most crucial moments of a pressure-packed pennant race (not to mention kids like Tyler Clippard, Darrell Rasner, Kei Igawa, Matt DeSalvo, and others who were given chances earlier in the season). The Braves seemed to have an all-new bullpen ever other week. That team nipping at the Mets’ heels, the Philadelphia Phillies, are throwing every arm they can find — young and old — to stop the bleeding and patchwork their way into the postseason. Kyle Kendrick, JD Durbin, Clay Condrey, JA Happ, Francisco Rosario, Mike Zagurski, and Fabio Castro are just some of the names not heard before who have contributed to the Phils’ mad rush. Granted, some of those names have performed less than admirably, but at least Philadelphia is trying to find solutions — rather than continually marching out the known (and underperforming) quantities.
In contrast, the Mets have had essentially the same cast of characters since April Fools’ Day (unfortunately, not a joke) — the only changes being the addition of Mota at the beginning of June, the month-and-a-half disappearance of Joe Smith, and the recent addition of Jorge Sosa. With every reliever other than Aaron Sele getting into 40 or more games, there’s no mystery. This corps is what it is, and it’s nothing special. After appearing 75 times and proving to be a mediocre pitcher, there isn’t much possibility of Pedro Feliciano suddenly becoming Willie Hernandez. With an ERA of 6 after 50+ games, you can’t think a PED-less Guillermo Mota will recapture the magic. And after 111 innings of throwing 95% sliders, it’s isn’t likely that Jorge Sosa will magically develop another pitch.
Meantime, Carlos Muniz, Phil Humber, Willie Collazo, Eddie Camacho, Ryan Cullen, Steve Schmoll, and others languished in the minors, never getting the call. Marcos Carvajal toiled in AA all year, then was picked up by the Marlins — who used him against the Mets within days after acquiring him. In addition, the Mets did not so much as sniff several pitchers who became available — both before and after the trading deadline. LOOGYs Mike Myers, Ron Villone, J.C. Romero, and Ray King. Joe Kennedy. Byung-Hyun Kim. Bob Wickman. Brett Tomko. Joel Pineiro, who’s starting against them tonight. Maybe none of those pitchers would have made much of a difference — but we’ll never know. And as we’ve seen, even if any of the youngsters were promoted, Randolph likely would have allowed them to rot on the bench (right next to Aaron Sele).
September is the time the rosters expand to 40, providing an opportunity to give a look-see to the up-and-comers. Every other team in MLB is doing just that — regardless of whether they’re in a heated pennant race. The Mets made the promotions, but had no plans to use them in anything other than long-lost situations. Instead, we continue to see the same old, used-up arms jog in from the bullpen — the same men who helped lead the team to a 52-52 record since June 2nd.