Before we get too excited about the plan to “tread water and wait for the cavalry to bail us out” (and I KNOW we’re all excited), may we review some numbers?
May 2: 10-13 (The First Domino Falls)
This was the date and the Mets’ record on the last day Oliver Perez was able bodied and made a contribution to a ballgame — a.k.a., the last time the Mets were at “full strength”. Perez was still healthy, as was John Maine, J.J. Putz, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and anyone else who might qualify for “cavalry” status. Three games under .500.
May 10th: 17-13 (Last Day of Delgado)
Going a full week without having to give Ollie a start, the Mets ripped off a 7-game winning streak. Didn’t Jeff Wilpon say something about “addition by subtraction” during the offseason? Although two of these seven wins came against the Phillies, the other five came against Braves and Pirates squads that were struggling mightily at the time — but judge it as you see fit. In any case, May 10th was the last game played by Carlos Delgado (suggesting a great title for the documentary of this season: “The Last Day of Delgado”).
May 20th: 21-19 (Reyes really down, no, really)
Ten days later, without Delgado and Perez, but with Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, J.J. Putz, John Maine, et al, the Mets more or less erased that big winning streak, going 4-6. This was the last game played by Jose Reyes. Granted, Reyes was held out of four of those ten games. The Mets were 2-2 without Reyes, and 2-4 with him in the lineup. Go figure.
June 4: 28-24 (ka-Putz)
With Jose Reyes joining Delgado and Perez on the DL, the Mets went 7-5. June 4th was the last game pitched by J.J. Putz.
June 6: 29-25 (Sinking of the Maine)
John Maine met the M*A*S*H unit two days later. The Mets won one, lost one (see the pattern developing here?)
June 21: 34-33 (Beltran Down)
The Mets had already lost quite a few faces, but still had the NL’s two hottest hitters, and Alex Cora was playing so far above his head few remembered Jose Reyes was on the team. Further, Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano emerged as fairly good setup men, and many fans weren’t sad to see Perez and Maine disabled as long as Livan Hernandez, Tim Redding, and Fernando Nieve were providing quality starts. But the team with Beltran and without Maine, Putz, etc., etc., was 5-8. It was during this time that Jerry Manuel began setting stage for mediocrity, and managing fans’ expectations instead of the ballclub. After the game on this day, Beltran joined his teammates on the DL.
The Mets are now one game under .500, which I imagine is “below water” as opposed to “treading water”. Many players have been subtracted from the roster on the way to that record, but looking at how things have transpired, is there really any reason to believe that their return will result in success? Perhaps as intriguing, which players will actually make a difference? Perez is the scheduled to be the first one back, but the Mets appeared to improve as a result of his absence. Beltran, despite challenging for the NL batting title, didn’t seem to be a difference-maker. Maine’s presence was similarly indifferent, as was Putz’s. We’d like to believe that Jose Reyes is the catalyst of the team and an important piece of the puzzle, but his presence alone likely won’t be enough to turn this team into a powerhouse. At minimum, he’ll need help from Delgado — the one man who appears to have the most positive impact on the team’s win-loss record.
What’s most aggravating about Jerry Manuel’s defeatist mentality while the stars are disabled is that the team wasn’t exactly steamrolling the competition when everyone was healthy. And at that early point in the season, the competition wasn’t anything special. Fully loaded, the star-studded Mets weren’t able to overcome the flaws of their organization-wide philosophies, system, and culture. The strategy of simply out-talenting everyone wasn’t working.
In other words, this team is not necessarily going to find success when “the cavalry” arrives, and furthermore, this team is not necessarily any worse without the walking wounded.