Many lows, few highs for Metropolitans

Posted: July 13, 2009 in Mets

All right folks, time to hand out the first annual A-Sod first-half awards, signifying the best and worst of the New York Mets thus far in 2009. With a 42-45 record, a plethora of injuries, countless bonehead plays and crushing defeats, we’ll see more bad than good here but there have been some positives.
First, the good:
FIRST HALF MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Carlos Beltran in a close one over Francisco Rodriguez, David Wright and Johan Santana (in that order). I know it’s hard to give an award to a guy who has spent nearly a month on the DL now, but Beltran was the offensive and defensive glue holding the team together, even after Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado (along with pitchers John Maine, Oliver Perez and J.J. Putz) went down with injuries. Beltran hit the DL following a 10-6 loss to the Rays, leaving the Mets at 34-33. They’re 8-12 since and only in the last two games have they mounted any kind of offensive attack. Beltran was hitting .336 with an OPS over .950. Since he hit the shelf, Wright has predictably struggled with little to no protection around him. Rodriguez gets second place here because (other than a few recent hiccups) he’s provided the bullpen with a shutdown closer, and he’s bounced back nicely from the few rough outings. Wright gets third despite his lack of power production. For the better part of the first half, his average was over .340 and he’s swiped 20 bags. More importantly, he’s managed to stay healthy (knock on wood) which gets major kudos on this club. Johan would have finished higher, but he hit a rough stretch in June (including a 15-0 embarassment at the hands of the Yankees) to inflate his numbers a bit.

FIRST HALF LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER: I’m going to go with my personal favorite whipping boy, Argenis Reyes. Yes, I’m aware he really hasn’t been on the team that long, but his mere presence on the squad underscores a big problem during the Omar Minaya years, a big-time lack in organizational depth. When teams like the Red Sox suffer injuries, they dip into their farm system and dig out players that are more than capable of holding the fort until the big guns return. Under Minaya, we Mets fans are so often treated to the likes of Reyes, a man who has no business sniffing a major-league baseball field. Rounding out the bottom four in this category are Ramon “Iron Hands” Martinez, $36 million embarassment Oliver Perez and Jon “Was I really on this team” Switzer. Dishonorable mention: The entire Mets medical and training staff for not only overseeing a MASH unit, but for frequent misdiagnosing injuries and botching timetables for players’ returns. Another middle finger salute goes to Minaya here for allowing the Mets to play shorthanded so many times. It’s called roster management, Omar, look into it.

FIRST HALF CY YOUNG AWARD: I’ll hand this one out to Rodriguez, for saving 23 of 26 opportunities (although one blown save should be credited to Luis “One-hander” Castillo). He was magnificent early in the year, and even though he’s had a few hiccups and tense moments, this guy doesn’t seem fazed by pressure and is able to brush off poor outings. Nice job, Frankie. Johan is a close second here and there really aren’t other suitable candidates, although if I had to pick a third it might go to Pedro Feliciano, who has been for the most part very good this year.

FIRST HALF ANTHONY YOUNG AWARD: Sorry to pick on poor Anthony Young, all-time losing streak be damned. He really wasn’t as bad as the streak would indicate, just had the misfortune of pitching on some godawful Mets teams in the early 90s. But this “award” is pretty easy. It goes to Perez, hands down. Yes, I guess you could attribute some of his struggles to a knee injury, but you just had the feeling this would happen when Omar handed him that 3-year, $36 million contract during the offseason. The ‘fruits’ of that contract so far: 6 starts, 2-2 (how did he win 2 games), 8.78 ERA, 2.25 WHIP, 32 H, 28 BB, 22 K in 26 2/3 innings. Ouch. The runner-up here is Tim Redding, who Omar foolishly signed to a guaranteed one-year, $2.25 million deal in the offseason when this guy fills the very definition of ‘minor-league deal’. In 11 appearances (9 starts), Redding has underwhelmed to the tune of 1-3, 7.14. Think the Mets wouldn’t have been better off handing a pair of one-year contracts to Randy Wolf and Jon Garland? Then they would have had a lot more money to pick up another outfield bat, but that would have made too much sense.

PLEASANT SURPRISE AWARD: I’ll give this one to Bobby Parnell. He had a disastrous June probably due to overwork and the league making adjustments to him, but he was very good in the first two months and has righted the ship of late. When on, this kid makes you believe he can be an elite setup man. Very good fastball and an improving slider. Hit 100 on radar gun in a win against Boston and has returned to that form in recent outings. For the longest time, Livan Hernandez had the inside track on this one, providing the team with needed innings and wins early in the year. However, he’s seen his ERA rise more than a full run in his last two outings, leaving me to believe his days on the team are numbered. Also a nod goes to Gary Sheffield here for proving he can still be a dangerous major-league hitter. I believed he would help when the the team signed him, but he’s actually been a godsend considering all the injuries to key offensive players.

This list was much harder to assemble than the top five worst losses (which was extremely hard to whittle down) but here they are from five to one.
5. May 31: Mets 3, Marlins 2: OK, so this is a bit of a biased choice, since it was my first trip to CitiField. My wife and I flew to New York from Florida for a friend’s wedding in Long Island. While there, we wanted to see the Mets play in their new home. It was a beautiful Sunday for baseball and John Maine (in the last start where he looked right) was dealing mid 90s heat and toying with the Marlins hitters. He worked six shutout innings before leaving with a stomach virus, and rookie Fernando Martinez delivered a key insurance run with a well-stroked opposite field double in the seventh. Trouble struck in the form of J.J. Putz in the eighth, who was horrible, but Bobby Parnell deftly escaped a bases-loaded one-out jam to preserve a one-run lead. K-Rod fanned the side in the ninth and I screamed myself hoarse. Mets were a season-best seven games over .500 at 28-21 after this one, then it all went terribly wrong.
4. May 6: Mets 1, Phillies 0: In one of the more unlikely pitching duels I can remember, Johan goes head to head with Chan Ho Park in Park’s only great start with the Phillies this year. Johan allows two hits in seven shutout innings, fanning 10. Park goes six innings of one-hit baseball, with the only Mets run coming on a seventh-inning throwing error by Phillies third baseman Pedro Feliz. This victory is the third of a season-best seven-game winning streak which took the club from 10-13 to 17-13. This was the first time they reached the .500 mark since the first week of the season.
3. July 2: Mets 9, Pirates 8, 10 innings: New York rallies from an early 5-0 hole, taking an 8-5 lead in the sixth on a homer by Fernando Tatis. Mets carry an 8-6 lead into the ninth, but K-Rod gives up a two-run homer to Adam LaRoche to tie it and narrowly escapes the ninth inning entirely. In his final big moment with the Mets, Ryan Church rips an RBI single in the 10th, and Rodriguez shuts the Pirates down in the 10th for the win. This seemed like a springboard type of win at the time, coming on the heels of a masterful Mike Pelfrey shutout the day before and again getting the Mets to .500 at 39-39. But the Mets were immediately swept by the Phillies, never taking a lead in any of those games.
2. May 12: Mets 4, Braves 3, 10 innings: This one was pretty improbable, as the Braves’ Jair Jurrjens dominated the Mets for 7 2/3 innings, carrying a 3-0 lead into the eighth. But Jose Reyes ripped a clutch two-out, two-run double in the eighth and the Mets tied it in the ninth when Carlos Beltran led off with a double, stole third with one out and scored on a sacrifice fly by Castillo. Mets then won it in the 10th when Beltran walked with the bases loaded.
1. May 23: Mets 3, Red Sox 2: By far my favorite win of the season and it’s not really close. Omir Santos hits a two-run homer against Jonathan Papelbon that was originally ruled a double. After an excruciating wait (I was following the game online with the delay: replay on my screen), the play was properly ruled a home run and the Mets’ bench goes nuts (as do I). Mets turn in some great infield D (a rarity this year) in the ninth to get J.J. Putz the save.

I had about 15 fairly strong candidates, whittled it to 10 and somehow got it down to five. Pretty sad but there were plenty of bad moments to go around and here are the worst.
5. June 1: Pirates 8, Mets 5: Again, another biased choice but a game that truly was a harbinger of terrible things to come. My wife and I were flying home to Florida that night and I was pumped that our airline (JetBlue) had satellite radio, allowing me to listen to the Mets game on the ride home. To my delight, the Mets seemed to carry the momentum from the Marlins series into the next game, with New York pounding Ian Snell for five runs in the first two innings. Then, the Mets offense (like it has been prone to do, even when everyone is healthy) fell asleep for the rest of the game. Still, the Mets held a 5-3 lead heading into the eighth before J.J. Putz happened. Putz didn’t retire a batter in his final outing before hitting the DL, allowing four of the Pirates’ five runs in an eventual loss. I felt deflated, but I figured the Mets would get them the next day. They were swept and bumbled their way through a terrible June.
4. May 13: Braves 8, Mets 7, 12 innings: This one was a tough one to take, as it came on the heels of a great win the night before (mentioned above). Tatis blasted an early grand slam to put the Mets up 6-4, before the Braves rallied off the Mets’ pen for a 7-6 lead. Gary Sheffield launched a game-tying blast off Rafael Soriano in the eighth, but the Mets squandered golden opportunities in the 9th, 11th and 12th innings. In each of those innings, they put the leadoff man on and had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs, but each time couldn’t get the big hit. After light-hitting Martin Prado homered off Ken Takahashi in the 12th, Jose Reyes hit a long double off the wall in left-center to lead off the 12th (would have been gone at Shea). Reyes was bunted over to third by Castillo, but Mike Gonzalez fanned both Beltran and Sheffield to end it.
3. June 11: Phillies 6, Mets 3, 10 innings: The Mets miss an opportunity to take a series from their rivals, grabbing a 3-1 lead through five innings. The Phillies tied it against Tim Redding in the seventh and eventually won it when Raul Ibanez blasted a three-run homer off Takahashi. With Brian Stokes available in the pen and the lefty Takahashi permitting a batting average close to .450 against lefties, Jerry Manuel stuck with Tak for some reason and paid the price. The night before gets an honorable mention here as well, as Mike Pelfrey was masterful through six before the wheels came off against him and the pen, with David Wright’s error keying a three-run rally which allowed the Phils to tie the game at 4-4. They won 5-4 on Chase Utley’s homer off Parnell in the 10th.
2. May 18: Dodgers 3, Mets 2, 11 innings: A game that will forever be remembered by Ryan Church missing third base on what would have been a two-out go-ahead triple by Angel Pagan. But it wasn’t a horrible loss for that reason alone. The Mets committed five errors in this one, including a dropped fly ball by the usually sure-handed Beltran in the 11th. Jeremy Reed, who for some reason was playing first for a time in May, threw the ball away on an easy force at the plate, allowing the Dodgers to walk away winners.
1. June 12: Yankees 9, Mets 8: Was there any doubt that this would top the list? Brutal, brutal loss in what could have been an awesome win. Yankees rallied to tie the game at 7 on a Hideki Matsui homer off Jon Switzer, but David Wright put the Mets up with a clutch eighth-inning double off Mariano Rivera. K-Rod had the game in hand, inducing A-Rod to meekly pop the ball up to second. With A-Roid slamming his bat in his disgust, all Luis Castillo had to do was grab the easy pop and the Mets win. Of course, we all know what happened in a game that perfectly sums up what being a Mets fan is all about. Pain, frustration and anguish. Disgust, embarrassment and anger. All rolled up into one, yet we always come back the next day hoping for a better result.

  1. MetsFan4Decades says:

    Nice first half analysis. I pretty much agree with most of it. Couldn’t agree more with the Beltran MVP.
    My thoughts:
    1. LVP: I put Ollie on top here. AReyes plays to exactly his level of talent. It’s not like he was expected to be any better than he was – he’s really a career minor leaguer, in my mind. Ollie, on the other hand, has talent that for some reason he can’t harness. And many have tried. Injury not withstanding, he said in SP he felt great and was ready to go. Arrives after the WBC in terrible shape, and that was all on him. Why he needs someone standing over him reminding him constantly what he needs to be doing, is beyond me. Then…when the ‘knee’ thing started, he turns around and says it’s been bothering him since ST. So which was it Ollie?

    2. Biggest disappointment was J.J. Putz. Don’t really know if that was due to – again, poor medical advice – of just his own poor decisions, but if you had a bone spur affecting your pitching it should have been addressed sooner rather than later.

    3. Beyond low is the medical staff for the Mets. And this includes last season as well as this season. From the Church debacle to Wagner to Putz to Reyes and all the others, you have to give them credit for one thing: they seem to consistently come up with the wrong diagnosis, conclusions and decisions time and time again.

    Here’s hoping we have more positives to look at in the second half….

    • Andrew Sodergren says:

      Good point on Putz, and I was actually going to put him third in my Anthony Young award, but gave him more of a pass due to the injury. Yes, I know Perez was injured too, but I attribute his struggles to being a headcase who just can’t harness his great talent, as you posted. And I see your point on Argenis Reyes, but like I said, I view his mere presence on the roster as Exhibit A of Omar’s negligence to putting together a good farm system. Yes, the Mets have prospects (most in the lower levels), but do a very poor job of assembling the proper depth you need in case injuries arise.

  2. GravediggerHebner says:

    Very thoughtful and thorough mid-season analysis.

    I have to say that finishing it up by reading the 5 worst losses has made me so upset/depressed that I can’t really comment more specifically on your write-up.

    I’m not sure what you could’ve done any differently, because had you placed the losses earlier in the piece I may not have even made it through to the end. Thank the Mets for making me, for lack of a better word, “speechless.”

  3. ep says:

    Besides firing Minaya – that’s too obvious – what’s the No. 1 move you’d like to see the Mets make in the second half?

    • Andrew Sodergren says:

      Unless they suddenly join the Roy Halladay sweepstakes, which according to published reports, they won’t, there are a few minor moves they could do to help the squad. I’d trade a few mid-level prospects to K.C. for infielder/outfielder Mark Teahen. He’s extremely versatile, able to play first, second, third, left and right. Then, I’d probably replace Livan Hernandez with Jonathan Niese in the rotation. Livan’s getting at least one more start, something he earned with a pretty solid first half before back to back implosions, but I’d rather the Mets see what they have in Niese, who hasn’t really gotten an extended look yet. He’s pitching extremely well in AAA (an ERA just over 1 over his last seven starts), so it’s time he got a chance.

  4. gravediggerhebner says:

    I thought you might appreciate this: to help with a mid-season Met catharsis, I am listening to “All Things Must Pass.” So many songs (well at least the titles anyway) relate to the season.

    Wah-Wah, because that’s what I want to do.

    Isn’t It A Pity, yes it is.

    Run Of The Mill, yes they are.

    Awaiting On You All, for the disabled list crew.

    The Art Of Dying, because while they are dying they are not doing it very artfully.

    And of course the title track, because this season, like all things, must pass.

    • Andrew Sodergren says:

      FANTASTIC ALBUM. I’m a Beatles nut and I’m fan of all their solo work (even Ringo had a few decent albums/songs) but I’ve always viewed All Things Must Pass as the greatest Beatle solo album. The thing is, there’s a whole other album of outtakes from that session, songs that if developed a bit could have easily replaced the Apple Jam that formed the third album of the rare tripledecker. Great tunes. Run of the Mill is one of the most underrated Harrison tunes, and is one of my personal favorites.

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