As the Mets’ second half has gone from bad to worse to unwatchable, it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even know where to begin. What topic do I address first? How do I combine my disgust, vitriol, ideas, and sadness into something that’s coherent enough to read? How do I cover all the topics that need to be covered without sitting here until tomorrow morning? Here it goes:
The 2012 season began with no expectations. To most observers, the Mets were a lock to finish in last place. Some had hope. That hope was rewarded with a 46-40 first half. What we’ve seen since is so unbelievably abysmal, it almost defies logic. The Mets have managed to turn what was a feel good season into their worst season since 2009 – which was a year where they had an excuse to be as bad as they were due to the inordinate amount of season altering injuries that slowed them down. Therefore, I think it’s fair to say that since the second half of the season began, this is the worst the Mets have looked since 2003. They had late season collapses in 2007 and 2008, but nothing close to this current 39 game stretch. As horrendous as that 2007 collapse was, the Mets went 40-35 during the second half of that season. The 2012 Mets are 11-28 so far in the second half. They’ve scored 2 runs or less in 8 of their last 10 games. Even if the Mets go 18-19 over their last 37 games, they would still finish the second half with a 29-47 record and wind up 75-87 overall. That’s their “optimistic” potential. Let that sink in for a second.
The way they’re playing, I’d be stunned if they played anywhere near .500 ball from here on out. How could anyone expect that after watching this horror show unfold, and observing their latest 4 game display? They were home facing the Rockies, the team with the worst pitching in the National League. A team so ravaged by injuries that they came into the series carrying 14 pitchers on the roster. A team in such a mess, that they limited their starters to 75 pitches per game. How did the Mets respond? They scored 4 runs in 36 innings. Now, if this had simply been a nightmarish series where the Mets gave it their all, played solid ball otherwise, and hit into some bad luck, I wouldn’t be writing this. What the Mets showed against the Rockies, though, was a give-up mentality.
Teams obviously look great when they’re winning and bad when they’re losing - from their body language to their dugout demeanor, etc. However, it’s one thing to lose. It’s another thing entirely, to sleepwalk through games. To act as if you’d rather be anyplace else than on a Major League baseball field. The starting pitchers did their jobs and the bullpen simply isn’t good. It’s the majority of the offensive players who should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. During their series against the Rockies, Mets players swung at the first pitch after the prior batter worked a 9 pitch walk. They misplayed balls in the outfield, failed to cover home during a rundown play, failed to pick up a double in favor of lazily throwing their hands up. They got picked off second base, failed to run out ground balls, and missed cutoff men. The only players I watched who seem to be exempt from this nonsense are David Wright and Ruben Tejada. Perhaps Kelly Shoppach as well, but it’s turned into too much of a blur of abominable nonsense for me to be certain. For the most part, the players have been lazy, careless, and apathetic. They’ve sat slumped in the dugout, rarely conversing with each-other.
So, what the hell happened in the second half to cause this? Dillon Gee suffered an unfortunate season ending injury, Johan Santana got hurt, and R.A. Dickey had a brief slump. No improvements were made to the bullpen, and that hurt. That was over a month ago. They should’ve shaken it off. Instead, they gave up. If every player had been busting their ass this whole time and playing the game the right way, I wouldn’t be seething right now. This would still suck pretty badly, but I wouldn’t feel embarrassed. There it is. I’m embarrassed with the way this team has performed. While it’s the players who are paid to perform, it’s the Manager who’s paid to motivate them. To prepare them. To give them an earful when it’s needed. That takes us to Terry Collins.
If this slide continues and the Mets finish with between 70 and 75 wins (or somehow finish worse than that), there’s no way Terry Collins can get a free pass. If Collins deserved praise for the way the Mets played the game at times during his first season, and during the first half of his second season, he deserves to be partially blamed for the way the second half of 2012 has deteriorated. This isn’t simply a lack of talent, it’s a lack of energy. It’s a complete failure to play the game in a fundamentally sound way. It’s at times been inexcusable laziness. Terry Collins is not a particularly good tactician. His bullpen usage is curious at best, horrendous at worst. His lineup construction is poor. Unlike Willie Randolph, he knows how to execute a double switch, but not how to get the most out of one. Terry Collins’ main positive attribute is his ability to motivate his players. Without that ability, he’s useless. I like Terry Collins personally, and the aforementioned sentence may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. There was some talk before the second half began that the Mets should extend Collins beyond 2013. At this point, it’d be absurd to do so. I don’t think he deserves to be fired, but he certainly doesn’t deserve an extension. That takes us to Sandy Alderson.
Alderson was hamstrung during this past offseason due to the still unsettled Bernard Madoff litigation. That litigation is in the past, and the team is on better footing. Still, the front office hasn’t been proactive. No one is condemning Sandy Alderson for not making huge free agent acquisitions, but a little creativity when constructing the roster wouldn’t hurt. The one positive that comes from this second half from hell, may be the fact that Alderson will now be forced to make dramatic alterations to the roster. When Alderson spoke with Mike Francesa Wednesday afternoon, he noted that he would not be going into 2013 with the same crop of players. He noted that the Mets needed “an infusion” of new players (starting rotation excluded), and that he wouldn’t hesitate to make trades in order to facilitate that infusion. Alderson is a man whose words are ordinarily guarded, so his comments were both surprising and welcomed. Here’s what Alderson has to work with: A starting pitching crop (combined of seasoned Major Leaguers, first year Major Leaguers, and pitchers on the cusp) that looks like it could be a legitimate asset. If you write off Johan Santana, the Mets have R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, Matt Harvey, Collin McHugh, and Zack Wheeler all ready to contribute to the starting rotation in 2013 and beyond. You can add Jenrry Mejia to that group if the Mets allow him to keep starting, which they should. The Mets’ starting rotation should be an asset – an area of the team that’s solid in its quantity and quality. It’s a rotation that’s Playoff caliber. Unfortunately, the glut of mediocrity that’s surrounding them on the offensive side of things and in the bullpen is impeding the potential for contention by this ballclub.
If Sandy Alderson meant what he said to Mike Francesa about refusing to hold firm, and if he was being truthful when he said there would be serious roster turnover, he needs to prove it. Alderson needs to sign David Wright and R.A. Dickey to contract extensions after the season. He needs to go into 2013 without Jason Bay on his team. Without Frank Francisco as his closer (I don’t care how much he makes, find someone else to close), without Josh Thole as his number one Catcher, without 3 outfield platoons, without his four fried chickens, and without his dry white toast. Sorry for the “Blues Brothers” reference, I’m getting slightly delirious here.
Terry needs to show that he can still motivate, and Sandy needs to put actions behind his words. At this point, I don’t care what the 2012 win total ends up being. The season is lost. The players are going through the motions. All we have left is hope for 2013 and beyond. And over the last four seasons, the Mets have given us very few reasons to hope. That needs to change.