September 28, 2008
BASEBALL: It Is Tempting To Just Propose A 161-Game Season
Another year, another grim defeat.
The Mets have now faced baseball's classic do-or-die game - win and advance, at least to a 1-game playoff or the next round of playoffs, lose and go home - for three straight years and lost each in excruciating fashion, losing on late inning homers in 2006 & 2008 and a first inning meltdown in 2007. This is not unprecedented in baseball history, of course - the Brooklyn Dodgers, for example, also did it three years in a row when they lost the pennant on late inning homers on the season's last day in 1950 and in the legendary playoff in 1951 and lost a 7-game World Series in 1952, plus they lost the Series in 7 in 1947, 5 in 1949, and 6 in 1953. If there's any consolation, most Mets fans were pretty numb by the time the ax fell.
Although the offense came up fairly empty, it was the bullpen in the end that was left to do the team in, and I found a sort of macabre justice in seeing the guys responsible for getting the Mets in this mess finish them off. I definitely want Schoenweis (and Heilman) gone next year, so we have a fresh group without the same ghosts, and I'm not thrilled about Ayala either, although he may just need a new season to get right again. With Schoenweis I argued all year that he was at least useful if used properly to face only lefties, but today he was brought in, the first batter was pinch hit for with a righty, and he served up the gopher ball that broke the camel's back. It's time to move on.
Oliver Perez was, ultimately, what you expect: in a big game he kept the team in the game but couldn't get past the sixth inning. That's who he is.
Endy Chavez really is an amazing glove man, and his great running catch against the wall in the top of the seventh brought back memories. I actually wondered down the stretch why he wasn't starting in right against lefties (like today) with Church in such a funk.
Random observation: Alfredo Amezaga was wearing enough lampblack to make a mask.
The broadcast team noted that Wright, Reyes, Beltran and Delgado were the first quartet of teammates to each appear in at least 159 games since the 1968 Cubs (another team not known for its strong finishes, the late-60s Cubs); those guys really did play their hearts out all year. The Mets entered this season with four major stars in their primes - Wright, Reyes, Beltran and Santana - and you could not realistically have hoped for more from them. They entered with three formerly major stars - Delgado, Wagner and Pedro - and got collectively what you tend to get with a group like that (one major resurrection, one effective but erratic and injury-shortened season, one wipeout). Perez was a bit off what you'd like but won a lot of big games, and the rise of Pelfrey offset the struggles of Maine. Brian Schneider gave the Mets the best you would have reasonably hoped from him...basically, this was a good team whose front-line players did about what they should have, but that just had too many holes, and the bulk of those in the bullpen. Management will still have that core next year, but it needs to do a better job of bringing in new relief arms and sorting through the pile of young players to figure out who is going to actually help.
Nice to see Ralph Kiner in the Shea booth one last time. You can tell Ralph's mind is still there, the words just don't come as cleanly as they used to.
I guess the upside is, I can say I was at the last Mets win at Shea.
And for the second straight year, I was at their last loss...though thanks to the closing ceremony my last memories are fond ones...
Both the Yankees and the Mets had disappointing seasons.
Both ended up with exactly the same records.
Which set of fans feel more let down? Which set of fans is more hopeful about 2009?
I agree with much of what you wrote, but would offer the following thoughts.
Before dumping Heilman when his value will be at an all-time low, why not finally give him the chance to fight for a spot in the starting rotation, once and for all? Meanwhile, offer Kyle Lohse a two-year deal to pitch at the new ballpark, assuming that the bidding war for Derek Lowe spirals out of control.
Sometimes, a team needs to make up for its relief-pitching woes by simply outslugging its opponents. Instead of throwing a ridiculous contract K-Rod's way (let Ayala, Knight, and Parnell compete in spring training for the closer role), the Amazins ought to invest the $15M per season in signing J.P. Ricciardi's favorite ballplayer, Adam Dunn. Meanwhile, pick up Delgado's option, since it will only cost the club, in effect, $8 million.
On another note, I was appalled to read Jeff Wilpon's claim after the game that the Mets somehow "overachieved". When a general manager assembles a team for almost $140 million, and that club AGAIN does not make the playoffs, the last thing the fans deserve to hear from the owner is that the team "overachieved"!
"Which set of fans feel more let down? Which set of fans is more hopeful about 2009? "
I'm thinking that Mets fans would be more let down, especially after last season. The Yanks have been plagued with pitching injuries all year, and while I'm disappointed, I think I'd feel worse if were a Mets fan.
I'm sure the TV networks are disappointed as well. New York is a major market that will probably tune out much of the playoffs.
I don't plan on watching much of it unless I feel like rooting against the Red Sox.
Good point about the networks being bummed.
Ratings will fall unless the Cubs make it to the WS. I think they can generate enough national interest for the long-suffering Cubbies to get decent ratings, but almost any other combination will be deadly (even the Red Sox don't carry the same storyline as in years past).
I can't even imagine what a Twins-Brewers WS would have for ratings.
I think any realistic Yankees fan should have realized that there was a reasonable chance they wouldn't make it this year, particularly if their young pitchers broke down and/or failed as they did.
As to the Mets, there really isn't much to analyze. It's the bullpen, stupid. I'd agree that making Heilman a starter might be the preferable option if he has little trade value, but he certainly cannot return to the Mets bullpen next season. Out of the current crowd, I'd keep Smith, Feliciano, and Stokes, and give Kunz and Parnell a look. They need to find a closer and probably at least one other decent established setup guy, though.
I was traveling yesterday and, blessedly, missed the game. But you know, about Ralph Kiner, I've listened to the man since 1962, when I was a young kid, and Kiner's words NEVER "came as cleanly as they used to." He was ALWAYS saying something that was a little off. That's why we loved him.
"He was ALWAYS saying something that was a little off. That's why we loved him."
The same could be said for Phil Rizzuto. Of course, in Rizzutto's case, the words always came out cleanly but you still didn't know what he was talking about.
Heilman has to get out of town, where I think he will do better. I am tempted to blame this on the bullpen, but in the end, while they did blow enough games that this last one was the last straw, they scored nothing in how many games now? One lousy fly ball from Wright with Martinez on third. He chased ball 4, which meant Beltran would probably have been pitched to. There is a game. Also, how many in the last few weeks when there were runners in scoring position and none out?
I think the expectations of Ryan Church were based on his being hot before he got hurt. He was slightly worse than his career norms overall this season, so he really just came back to earth. Reyes, Wright and Beltran all had basically very good years. That's Wright's expectations: 120+ RBIs and he wasn't having a good year. Their overall relief pitching was indeed poor; Pelfrey probably hit a wall somewhat, so we can probably expect continued improvement. The core group is excellent. My guess is Delgado returns, because who else is out there? I can see Murphy landing the left field job, and maybe Evans learning first. That one I don't know about. They have questions about their young players: Martinez, A. Reyes, Murphy and Evans, and those are good questions. Their starters they know about: Santana and Pelfrey, Ollie will go for the big bucks, Pedro is out, Maine will hopfully be fine. And they, like everyone else, needs a bullpen.
But it was great seeing Seaver. It always is.
My condolences to the Met fans. But at least your team played meaningful games after April! My Pirates did not.
Is this core group of Met players capable of getting to the playoffs by adding a few players? Or will they be like so many other teams that just don't have it? I am begininng to wonder if the core guys have what it takes. The Mets talent is as good as the Phillies but it did not translate into just a few more wins.
Will Met management open their pockets even further (reach Yankee level of payroll) to sign free agents to fill the holes? Are there the right free agents availible to even fill the holes? Can the Mets outbid the Yankees for the key players?
Both teams need pitching. The Yankees need more starters while the Mets need a better bullpen. The Mets also need an outfielder and 1st baseman assuming Delgato doesn't have another big season left in him.
Alot of tough questions.
Meanwhile the question in Pittsburgh is "Can anyone here play this game?" So far the answer has been "no".
Lee, you have my sympathies. If there is something that Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and always the Twins show, brains triumphs over bank account. At least for the few years the young players who play cheaply are there.
The ratings for a Brewers/Rays World Series would be terrible, but on the bright side, I think baseball is better as a result, and think of all the agents who will realize that they might not get the bigger paydays. If I were an owner, I would try and build like these guys, and never take another Boras call.
Thanks for the sympathy.
I personally would love a Brewers/Rays World Series for just the reasons you state. Brains beats $s! A Twins/Brewers series would also be nice.
After how Borass dirty dealed the Bucs over Alverez, the Bucs Management would love to never take his call again!