Monday, April 26, 2004

Games 17 through 19 - Mets
Don't Wake Me Up, I Don't Want to See

Cubs 3, Mets 1
Cubs 3, Mets 0
Cubs 4, Mets 1
Record: 7-12

I can see clearly now, the hope is gone,
I can see all frustrations in my way
Gone are the rays of light that had me blind
It's gonna be a dark (dark), dark (dark)
Rain-clouded day.

Yes, the series in Wrigley has removed the rose-colored glasses and cued the Johnny Nash (well, his alternate, negative image version). Does it seem too early, too Red Sox Nationish to turn my cards over and sheepishly push them towards the dealer when we're still in April? Does it? Consider this, fair friends. Last year's Pauly-Shore-movie of a season starred a Mets team who, after 19 games, was 8-11. Yes, that'd be one game better than we sit here a year later. For all the chaff-cutting and wheat-adding that supposedly happened in the off-season, the net result is a downturn?

A few minor points about the blues-filled weekend in Chicago:

1. See the mid-game update below. When Piazza stepped to the plate in the third inning, the Mets had notched five hits in just over two innings against the Cubs. After the incident we'll call "What Mike Did," the Mets played 25 more innings with just nine hits. I wouldn't believe it's possible for a meek grounder to the pitcher to be powerful enough to set the tone for three days, but seeing is believing. Nothing was the same after that.

2. Chicago II: Saturday in the park was just a disaster, and it did nothing to colour my world or make me smile. Kerry Wood is feeling stronger every day, and that was only the beginning. Questions 67 and 68 that day: would the score end up 25 or 6 to zero, and does anybody on the Mets really know what time it is? (Sorry, you'll get nothing from the Peter Cetera-ble Singer era.)

3. Kerry Wood is a stud, and he's pitching unbelievably, but the Mets just looked awful against him. There were more check-swing and half-swing strikeouts than I've ever seen. Guys didn't look like they guessed wrong -- they looked like they weren't guessing at all, just waving the bat at warm-up swing speed and taking their seat. For the first time this season, they looked like they did not belong on the same field. And that's when things started to crystallize for me.

4. A year ago Matt Clement pulled a Wohlers-Ankiel against the Mets, spastically losing his control for a few innings in a display reminiscent of Ebby Calvin LaLoosh. A year has made a ton of difference for Clement, who looked unhittable Sunday, and was just that through six-plus. Of course, he got plenty of help from the Mets hitters, who were swinging at absolutely everything, holding off only on pitches right down the middle. It also helped that the strike zone was wider than Waveland Avenue, but the same strike zone didn't help a slightly-off Al Leiter. It further helped that Art Howe was forced to pencil in a lineup of Matsui-Duncan-Piazza-Garcia-Phillips-Valent-Zeile-Gutierrez, a.k.a. "The Colander." But make no mistake, Clement was lights out.

5. And that's all I have to say about that series.

So I'm a little groggy from sleeping dreamily through the first four weeks of this 2004 campaign. Now I'm awake, though, and I can see what we're in for: more of the same, alas. It was either Steve Stone or Chip Caray in the WGN booth (both were mockingly critical of the Mets, and rightly so) who captured it all so nicely when he laughingly announced the Expos' current run total (Expos Watch coming soon!), then sighed and said, "Yeah, it's going to be the Expos and Mets in the cellar of the National League East this year. To be lumped in with a team who has scored half as many runs as the second-lowest scorer in the league is embarrassing. But not inaccurate.

The injury problem cannot be overstated. Yes, it's technically still April, people keep saying. Well, it's almost May, almost 1/6 of the way through, and Jose Reyes hasn't taken a swing. Cliff Floyd is almost forgotten, Mike Cameron has missed a few games, and now Ty Wigginton is out. [Wigginton was diagnosed as having an ulcer; his Yankee-fan doctor was unable to determine the cause until Ty forwarded him the URL of this site.] It's unwise to judge the future of this team when its best squad hasn't taken the field, but it's more naive to think there won't be more DL stints on the way. There's little depth on this club, and that's been exposed early. Norfolk, Virginia has produced some of the finest talent the world has ever seen (see Rob's post on my GWRBI from last week); what's happened there lately?

After dropping eight of ten in pathetic fashion, the prognosis simply looks bleak all around. I am cutting my losses early this year and waiving any aspirations of contention. How quickly will the second-tier goal of finishing within the 22-game window of the Red Sox be cast off as delusion, too?

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