Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Same Old Song and Dance

Games 18 & 19 – Mets

Padres 7, Mets 4
Giants 6, Mets 2
Record: 12-7

As the Mets’ season wears away from tightly knit to slightly frayed, we along for the ride have to keep reminding ourselves that we’re still a long way from totally unraveled. Sometimes that’s hard to do. Irrationally, the last few years ‘round these parts have us beaten dogs flinching at minor departures from the early success. Rationally, the Mets are still prone to doing some of the infuriating things they’ve been known for in seasons past, and this can only make us associate them with the era of suck that preceded them.

Case in point: last night the Mets once again allowed a young, promising but heretofore scuffling pitcher to dominate them. Exit Kyle Davies a week ago, enter Matt Cain. Cain had been knocked around for several starts, then he threw perfect baseball into the sixth against the Mets. It’s not that these young arms aren’t good – it’s that the Mets’ lineup, as good as they are (even – still – missing Carlos Beltran), shouldn’t be the ones to kick-start these guys’ seasons.

But this is what they’ve done for a long time. Give us your tired, your poorly pitching, your wretched refuse claimed off waivers, and we can turn them into world-beaters. Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, even Woody Williams – those pitchers are going to have your number once in a while, though it’d be nice if they didn’t each dominate the Mets within one week; but the age-old habit of losing to members of the rotation with limited résumés and gnarled recent histories has to stop. That’s just not a characteristic of a contender.

Though the game last night should have been more of a Met-sided match-up, there was one facet announced by the Giants crew that I figured might work against them, and clearly it did. Home-plate ump Eric Cooper was noted as a guy who calls the high strike but not the ball off the edges of the plate. Advantage Cain, a hard-throwing guy who drifts upward in the zone. Meanwhile Tom Glavine pitched reasonably well, didn’t get the necessary fringe calls east and west of the dish, and made a few mistakes. These can be factors in the outcome, but let’s not go ahead and wholly blame the men in blue for this loss.

One quick camera shot from Glavine indicated, however, that he might want Xavier Nady to pony up the blame for at least one run. In the first inning, Xavier Nady let a ball drop in front of him, and when I say “in front of him” I mean “a few inches in front of him.” It nearly caromed off his toe as he watched it. Inexplicable -- it was almost as if he expected Kaz Matsui to try an Anderson Hernandez leap, which is funny just thinking about. After it fell in, TG shook his head, moseyed back to the mound, walked Bonds, and gave up a tone-spoiling three-run tater to Moises Alou. What with the Mets using Wiffle bats all night, that was enough.

The Metropolitans have now dropped five of seven and are looking imminently beatable. The Fates of baseball are a fickle sort, so there is nothing that says they can’t be mowing through teams again by next week. It’s becoming more apparent, however, that they appear to be not as good as touted by the masses (mostly outside of Mets Township, mind you) when they were cruising through the NL East’s excrement, and not as bad as when their bats are muted by less than All-Star caliber guns. Granted, without a healthy line-up, long-term analysis is guesswork, but this may be a roster the Mets are working with for quite a while. Valleys in the order (Reyes, Floyd, Chavez) need to be filled either by letting them play out of the rut or shaking things around. Someone needs to figure it out, though, and quickly. (Psst . . . Willie, wake up . . . by "someone" I mean you.) Meanwhile, we’re seeing that Glavine’s fountain of youth isn’t impervious to drought, Bannister is due for a pasting with all of the runners he’s permitting, and Victor Zambrano . . . wow, I wish I could type his name without clenching my fists.

It’s still early. Such is the refrain regurgitated by the would-be sages in the game. Well, we’re into May next week, and I’d like to think that the reason I can’t see what’s on the road ahead is because it goes uphill, rather than because I’m donning the blinders once again.

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