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What Went Wrong: New York Mets

Oct 4, 2009, 11:54 AM EDT

The following completes a series profiling some of 2009’s biggest disappointments.

New York Mets

Record: 69-92 (4th in NL East)

How It Happened:

The Mets entered their inaugural season at Citi Field with legitimate
questions about the back-end of their rotation and their corner
outfield spots, but with four of the best players in the game and a
retooled bullpen, it appeared that they were in fine position to
reclaim the top spot in the National League East. The baseball gods had
a different plan in mind.

The team has endured injuries to nearly every significant player on
their roster (David Wright, Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran
and Carlos Delgado among them). Reyes hasn’t appeared in a game since
May 20 (hamstring) while Delgado has been sidelined since May 10 (hip
surgery). And J.J. Putz, who was expected to be the bridge to new
closer Francisco Rodriguez, hasn’t thrown a pitch since June 4 (elbow).
Oliver Perez, who was signed to a mind-boggling three-year, $36 million
deal over the winter, was limited to just 14 starts (knee). But with an
awful 6.82 ERA and 58 walks in 66 innings, that’s probably for the
best. Even their top minor league reinforcements (Jon Niese and
Fernando Martinez) suffered season-ending injuries.

Their depleted lineup has managed a major-league worst 95 home runs,
the franchise’s lowest output since another over-hyped, over-priced
flameout in 1992. Daniel Murphy leads the team with just 12 homers.
Critics have been quick to blame Citi Field for Wright’s power outage
(career-low 10 home runs), however his home-road splits are even. With
140 strikeouts in 533 at-bats (26.3%), he’s clearly changed his
approach at the plate with a lack of protection around him. He plans to
work with hitting coach Howard Johnson during the offseason to round himself back into
shape for 2010.

While the off-field distractions were utterly embarrassing (Tony
Bernazard, Omar Minaya-Adam Rubin, Jerry Manuel’s very public rivalry
with Ryan Church), what was left of the product on the field set new
standards of losing in the most epic and painful ways possible. From
missing third base (Ryan Church) to a dropped pop-fly by Luis Castillo
against the Yankees in June to a pair of walk-off grand slams served up
by Francisco Rodriguez (the first ever to do it in one season), the
Mets were not satisfied with simply slipping into unremarkable
mediocrity. They lost. A lot. And they wanted you to remember it.

Silver Linings:

After his unforgettable drop against the
Yankees, I wondered out loud if Luis Castillo could survive the
blunder. Well, he’s done that and then some, batting .316/.398/.351
with 25 RBI, 44 runs scored and 14 stolen bases since June 12. With an
overall line of .304/.389/.347 with 77 runs scored in 141 games
(shockingly, the third most among Mets position players this season),
Castillo is no longer the fans’ favorite whipping boy. While Omar
Minaya can now claim that the signing isn’t a complete disaster, he
should be looking for a taker during the offseason.

Angel Pagan has earned himself a spot on the Mets’ bench next
season. Plugging a hole while Carlos Beltran was on the mend, the
28-year-old outfielder has batted .298/.343/.469 with six home runs, 32
RBI and 14 stolen bases in 339 at-bats. He surprisingly ranks fourth in
the league with 10 triples.

Looking to shake things up, Omar Minaya acquired Jeff Francoeur in
exchange for Ryan Church in a classic “change of scenery” trade on July
10.  Apparently Minaya was enamored with Francoeur’s ability to play in
a lot of games, an underrated quality in a season like this. Francoeur
actually played quite well in what was effectively an audition for a
new contract, batting .311/.338/.498 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 289
at-bats. There has been talk about buying out his arbitration years,
but the Mets would be wise to take it a year at a time with a player
who is just as likely to revert to being one of the least valuable
players in the league.

Looking Ahead:

There’s no perfect elixir to what ails the
Mets. They will have to fill significant holes at first base, catcher
and left field. Though they have shown flashes, Daniel Murphy, Omir
Santos, Josh Thole and Angel Pagan shouldn’t be expected to carry the
load at those respective positions if they want to be competitive.
After a disappointing year by Mike Pelfrey, who looked downright lost
at times, it’s imperative that the Mets find a No. 2 starter.

Not counting arbitration candidates (Francoeur, Pagan and Pedro
Feliciano, among others) the club has roughly $105 million tied up in
contract commitments for 2010. In this post-Madoff world, they will
likely have somewhere in the vicinity of $20-25 million to improve. For
an organization exposed as lacking in major-league ready prospects, it
will be difficult to upgrade via trade.

The injuries are a convenient excuse, but no manager who leads his team to a lifeless 20-48 stretch deserves to be
considered “safe.” That’s why I expect and urge the team to replace
Jerry Manuel before next season. In recent weeks, there’s been a
movement building for Bobby Valentine to return as manager in 2010.
Nostalgia? Sure. But what it reveals is a longing among the fanbase.
They want an overhaul. Not just someone who pitches every five days
(Johan Santana) like after they collapsed in 2007; not just someone who
pitches the ninth inning every couple of days (Francisco Rodriguez)
like after they collapsed again last season. They want a change at the
top. Valentine wouldn’t be a long-term solution, mind you, but they
could find a worse steward to change the culture of the clubhouse and
restore some faith heading into an uncertain future. Fred Wilpon and
company shouldn’t expect fans to line up with the same leadership in
place, no matter how much they cut ticket prices.

  1. willmose - Oct 4, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    Four of the best players in the game!? Who the heck might they be?
    Outside of Santana, no one of the Mets belongs as one of the best players in the game. Most overpaid players in the game, absolutely. The Mets have at least a baker’s dozen of these kind of players. Perhaps, what really went wrong with the Mets was that they thought they had some talent.
    In the house cleaning, start at the top. Get a new owner.

  2. Chris - Oct 4, 2009 at 5:45 PM

    Willmose, you’d have to be a moron to not think that David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Johan Santana are not 4 of the best players in the game. You can even throw a healthy Delgado in there based on his stats from the 2nd half last year. They do have talent, however the damage that their core and rotation took this year due to injuries was insurmountable. Yes, they also played uninspired and fundamentally flawed baseball quite a bit this year… but how can you expect a team to endure the losses they took on this year? Disheartening to say the least. The front office needs to fill the following holes this year:
    They need a power bat either in left field or first base, and someone serviceable at one of those positions. I don’t have faith in Daniel Murphy, but do feel he has talent and has found a position at first, just not on this team. And I can live with Pagan as a 4th outfielder and defensive replacement. They also need a quality number 2 starter. Someone like Lackey would be nice. You can sign a Marquis, so long as he is not counted on as a number two… more of a number 3 pitcher…but a New Yorker, and would acclimate himself well to the NY environs. Replacing Manuel is not a requirement, although a change of the manager and coaching staff wouldn’t be a bad thing. I would be willing to give Minaya one more year, depending on what he does this off season. His job depends on the moves he makes this winter.

  3. Bern - Oct 4, 2009 at 6:49 PM

    Valentine is not the answer….HoJo is the guy for the mets..puting the mets in first place next year….He nows the kids in the farm system that their….Piching Coach would be Tom Glaven. Make David Wright the captain.

  4. Grant - Oct 4, 2009 at 6:59 PM

    Beltran is obviously one of the very best players in the game, and Wright, Reyes, and Santana are right up there too.

  5. hop - Oct 4, 2009 at 10:36 PM

    The injuries are an excuse, even if that didnt happen the mets were not making the playoffs. They are old, they have 4 flat tired behind Santana and outside of their closer their bullpen still sucks. How the GM and manager still have a job is beyond me but i hope they keep those two clowns cause i have faith the mets will never contend with them in charge. Now go resign sheffield, hahahhaa

  6. willmose - Oct 5, 2009 at 8:47 AM

    I have this thing about “best players in the game”. They actually have to be among the “best players in the game. Look at the numbers! Reyes hasn’t played since May! The best players in the game actually play! Carlos “Take Strike 3 with the pennant on the bases” Beltran’s nickname speaks for itself. Carlos is always hurt and chokes big time. David Wright? Sorry, he is middle of the league at best. Third base is a spot where you need some pop, a guy who can hit a dinger or 30. When was the last time Delgado played a full season? The best players play. The overpaid wannabes moan. Out 4+ months with a hamstring? The baseball season is a 162 game grind. Players put up numbers that really do indicate how good they are. Injuries really aren’t an excuse. The best players keep themselves in shape, perpare before the game, play smart, play when they are sore, don’t play when they are hurt, recover from injuries in a timely manner, train in the off season. Yes, freak injuries do occur, but none of these “best players” had a freak injury, just stupid preventable ones. Hey I am one of the best players in the game. No I didn’t play this year, but I had 342 RBIs in my mind.
    I guess I expected more from Mets seeing as how they have the most expensive payroll in the league by far. If the Priates had half the payroll of the Mets, they would be in the playoffs. The fish rots from the head. Fire the owner.

  7. Benny Blanco - Oct 5, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    Hey Willmose, your only referring to one season. One injury plagued season in a game where injuries happen. Check the lifetime stats and you will see why Wright and Beltran are considered among the best in the game. Reyes may have alot to prove, but consistency is what makes you great, not one season.
    Your words make it obvious you are nothing but a Met hater, not a subjective baseball fan.

  8. Mike - Oct 5, 2009 at 12:55 PM

    Mets fan since there first game. Can’t stand them anymore. Get rid of owner, he’s more concernrd about the old Brooklyn Dodgers than the Mets) the GM (Minaya’s a joke) and the manager (who is a bigger joke) Rebuild with younger players that hustle and earn their money.

  9. Fan since `62 - Oct 5, 2009 at 6:11 PM

    I have finally had enough. If Jerry Manuel returns in 2010 I will find a new team to root for. Obviously I have been through lean years, but with as much talent as this team has ( injuries not withstanding) they should have at the very least been a first place team once out of the last 3 years. Jerry is a nice guy, but we need someone with passion and fire.
    So Fred and Jeff, admit your mistakes and get rid of manuel. Oh, and by the way there are some real G.M.s out there so get rid of Minaya too. He is only focused on Spanish ballplayers while there is no need to limit your options in the market.

  10. Bern - Oct 5, 2009 at 7:31 PM

    Mr Wilpon you’r first mistake for 2010 is keeping Manuel….Those guys don’t need a father….HoJo is a leader and the players would respect him, the fans would LOVE to pay just to see see HoJo there.

  11. bern - Oct 6, 2009 at 7:41 PM

    Fan since ’62
    I also have been there since 1962 going to polo grounds with my brother and I now that manuel is not the guy infact I don’t even now what kind of player he was…But that does not stop me from seeing them.

  12. Stop Sweating - Feb 8, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    Hi, i must say fantastic blog you have, i stumbled across it in AOL. Does you get much traffic?

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