Since Opening Day, starting pitching has been the Mets’ primary strength. Today, two-fifths of the rotation is lost to season ending injuries. First it was Mike Pelfrey. Now all of a sudden, Dillon Gee’s sophomore campaign in all likelihood is over as well. The blood clot found in his right shoulder, and the steps which will be taken to rectify that, all but assures his season is done.
Needless to say, adversity has finally found its’ way to Flushing. If the Mets were intending to be buyers at the trade deadline, they need to dig a little deeper than anticipated, for you can now add a starting pitcher to the shopping list. This much is certain however, the Mets’ priorities have just shifted. And as such, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins are faced with a dilemma on many levels. Prior to learning of Gee’s condition, the Mets’ needed to shore up the bullpen; find a right handed bat; and Sandy Alderson was interested in trading for a right-handed catcher. What should the 2012 plan be now?
The Mets are currently only 4.5 games behind the first place Nationals, and just a half game behind the Braves. They start a series in Atlanta Friday night, then move on to the Nation’s Capital for a three game set. Even though they stumbled over themselves against the Cubs to end the first half, and wound up losing a game in the standings to Washington as a result, the Mets have still done very well to play themselves into good position coming out of the break. All their efforts so far were leading up to these next two all-important, and potential season making series. Since they have proven over the course of the first three months of the season, they are worthy to be included in the playoffs conversation, therein lies the dilemma.
The collective discipline of Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins, and the greater fan base, is now being put to the test. The Mets head into these key six games without Dillon Gee, and with Johan Santana nursing a sore ankle. So the search for solutions is on. But the Mets also have a plan in place; a rebuilding plan. The call to summon some of their minor league prospects however, will be loud, because many will argue, this season is worth investing in, or at worst, worth saving. Me? I have been clear about my position. No one gets promoted in the 2012 season. I stand by that.
If I may make a comparison, my first inclination is to say, Jon Niese needs to step it up, and become a Mets’ version of Cole Hamels. That’s what happens when you sign for the big bucks. Expectations go up too. Niese needs to bare down a little more; work with Dan Warthen a little more closely; and maybe start pitching with a little more attitude too. The Mets’ first line of defense against a crumbling back end of the rotation, is for the front three to pick up the slack. Clearly R.A. Dickey, and Johan Santana, are doing their share. But in truth, all Jon Niese needs to do is fine tune his ability to finish games.
Tom Seaver always said there are three to five outs per game that a starting pitcher must absolutely get in order to be successful. And The Franchise also stressed that perhaps a pitcher’s next out was not necessarily the batter standing at the plate. That maybe, his more certain out was on the on-deck circle. This is where Jon Niese lacks. He usually gets hurt with one or two late pitches, which ruin an otherwise stellar start. If Niese can get that figured out, I believe a big and strong starting three, can still keep the Mets in contention.
To call the Athletics, Brewers, and Astros about their pitching, or even the Phillies to inquire about Cole Hamels will ultimately cost the Mets players. Which players? Which players are the Mets and their fans willing to part with? What prospects, if any, are fans willing to include in a trade? It is easy to say go get this guy, or that guy. The real question is – what are you willing to give up?
I’m sticking to my guns. I believe in the philosophy the Mets have adopted, and I believe in the plan we have in place. It is something we begged and screamed for not too long ago. We demanded a coherent plan from this organization. Now that we have one in place, I stress discipline to see it through. If that means we ride 2012 as long as we can until the wheels fall off, so be it. The two championships won by the Mets came through major rebuilding efforts. It is how I believe we will secure our third.
But I am not here to stand against my fellow Mets fan who would argue a playoff dream is worth chasing. I get that. This team is gritty enough. In that regard, there are very sound points to be made. And well, it’s your team too. That’s why the Mets problem is more philosophical than something tangible, like a replacement pitcher, or relief help, or power from the right side.
There is only one thing I can really safely say on every one’s behalf. And that would be – Let’s Go Mets! However which way the Mets go about it, here’s to a contending second half of the season.