The Mets played 20 innings yesterday. They lost. They played the team with the worst record in baseball, but the result of the battle of these foes was not new. The Marlins, owners of baseball’s worst record, have had little difficulty beating the Mets in 2013. In fact, the Marlins have beaten the Mets 7 of 10 games this year. But that doesn’t really matter. In 1969, when the Mets shocked the world, they lost all 6 games they played at the Astrodome against the struggling Astros. Yesterday’s game was record-setting, but not in a good way. The Mets were 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position. That’s almost incomprehensible. But we have to find a way to comprehend it. Only upon comprehension of the problem may it be adequately addressed.
May 28, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets manager Terry Collins (left) is ejected from the game by second base umpire Adrian Johnson (right) after the sixth inning of a game against the New York Yankees at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
So what did we learn, or have reinforced learning about, in yesterday’s game? First, the Mets’ offense lacks, well, just about everything. The Mets have little power, and little speed. They strike out often (19 yesterday), and seem to have trouble executing their philosophy of getting on base, and getting crooked numbers with long balls. Some of the numbers from yesterday include cleanup hitter, Lucas Duda, going 1 for 7, leaving 7 runners on base. His average after the game stood at .229. John Buck, who started the season on fire, went 2 for 8 in the game, stranding 5 runners. Buck’s average for the season fell to .219. Ike Davis had a hit in 2 ABs, and scored the Mets’ only run. However, Ike is now hitting .164. The problem is that these were the 4, 6, and 7 hitters in the lineup. More needs to come from these guys who are placed in run-scoring spots in the order.
Another learning from yesterday’s game (or reinforced previously held belief) is that Terry Collins struggles at in-game managing. One case-in-point would be the bottom of the 9th. John Buck led the inning off with a single. Shockingly, he was left in to run for himself, making a sacrifice almost untenable. Rick Ankiel, who runs well, was available on the bench to run, but Collins left Buck in. He then burned Anthony Recker as a pinch hitter in the inning, meaning that Buck was in for the duration. Speaking of Buck, John was asked to sacrifice later in the extra innings after a leadoff single. Buck popped out. How Collins could ask Buck to sacrifice is beyond reasonable explanation. Let him swing, and try to drive the ball in a gap to end the game. He has a better chance of doing that than he does sacrificing, which he does about once per year.
While the points for discussion from yesterday’s game are numerous, here’s one last point for this article. The Mets do not play fundamentally sound baseball. Daniel Murphy found himself on third with one out in the bottom of the 12th. Marlon Byrd hit a fly ball to medium right field. Inexplicably, Murphy ran down the line, and had to turn around and come back to tag. That cost him about one second of running time, and he was thrown out as the winning run at the plate. In fairness, Marcell Ozuna made a great throw. But Murphy’s back-and-forth routine was not productive, and may or may not have cost him the chance to win the game. Fundamentals go beyond base running and bunting. At least some of the LOBs yesterday, according to Terry Collins, were caused by guys trying to hit long balls, instead of hitting appropriately for the game situation, when a single would have won the game.
When there are problems, we seek solutions. The Mets’ problems, demonstrated in yesterday’s microcosm of their season, are many. One could look at the leadership of the organization responsible for the players on the field, the coaches who coach them, and certainly the players themselves. When problems are many and varied, it’s hard to know where to start the remediation. I’m hoping that Sandy Alderson knows, because I know that I would not know where to begin. But hope is not a strategy. I’m not sure what strategy Mr. Alderson may have, but it will need to be multi-faceted. The 20 innings yesterday certainly provided us with an opportunity to see that.