Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fool to Cry

Game 57 – Mets

Dodgers 8, Mets 5
Record: 34-23

As I chide my collaborator for inching toward the ledge in early June, I should also note that according to my 6-4-3 through the Metblogs today, there are quite a few among Mets Township who’re sounding similarly distressed after but one loss. It happened to be a loss replete with ugliness – in actual play and signs for the future, but it wasn’t without its bright spots, and it shouldn’t cast too much of a pall on even tonight’s game. Take a breath, people.

Pedro Martinez versus Derek Lowe with Grady Little in the dugout, Nomar Garciaparra in the 3-spot, and Bill Mueller riding the pine – it’s as if we scrolled down a few hundred thousand words here and read some of Rob’s brilliance. Alas, it was New York versus Los Angeles, Bostonians’ least favorite markets. After one inning, it looked like the Mets hadn’t stocked up enough on ex-Sox; Lowe’s sinker was looking elusive as ever in the Mets’ at-bats, and Nomar’s two-run jack off Pedro in the latter half happened almost as quickly as Reyes’ tone-setter the night prior.

The Mets came back to tie the game at two, but this just wasn’t Pedro’s night, and the tie was later re-fractured. I guess it hasn’t been “his night” since April, when he last won, but this was one of the few times that he looked as susceptible as he gets. I’m sure the day will come, but we haven’t yet been exposed to a Pedro outing in which he’s truly been off; his game is more like a dining room dimmer, and last night his performance was as poorly lit as we’ve seen during a meal, yet still bright enough to see. In keeping with the theme, Mr. Matinez has also added a hearty helping of taters to his menu, including a pair of the Idaho variety last night. In addition to Nomar’s first-inning, two-run homer, rookie Matt Kemp turned on an inside fastball to morph 2-2 into 4-2 and usher in the scoring in a sixth inning that quickly became a tragicomedy in one act. Of note is that Kemp was fooled badly on a pair of breaking balls just before launching the “fastball” over the fence. Pedro’s heater looked pretty pedestrian most of the night.

Compiling the list of Things That Looked Like the Same Old Mets Last Night, we’ll start with the injuries. To begin with, Jose Reyes was scratched with a bad wrist last night, the product of a swing in his last at-bat Monday night. [Insert free-swinging Reyes joke here.] Then, amid the mini-rally to knot the game at two in the second, Cliff Floyd rolled his ankle . . . slowing up to reach third base standing. And for all of you Metbloggers who’d felt the recent need to point out ad infinitum that Floyd’s notoriety for fragility was no longer pertinent, I thank you and Cliff thanks you for the hex. Finally, Carlos Beltran made one of the best diving catches of the Mets’ season in center field, but seemed to hurt himself doing so. He stayed in the game – because he’s tough, because the team is extremely short-staffed in the outfield, and because he needs more charges of delicacy from the NY press like a hole in his sternum. This is the time of year when injuries seem to come in rashes, and a big enough outbreak can tank a season. (See the Great Beantown Disaster of 2006, RIP.) It’s another factor in the alarm sounding in some corners of the ‘sphere. (Geography never was my bag.)

Then we have the play of the regulars, and the panic/abuse/sound/fury of the masses took aim at the defense. Target #1 was Jose Valentin – just when we’d all phoned in his gubernatorial pardon and he began packing his things to leave death row, he’s back on the firing line. His not one but two errors in the aforementioned sixth inning debacle helped the Mets give the game away. Just when we thought Chris Woodward’s glove had left him behind, Valentin changed his theme music to Georges Bizet’s Carmen and sent a bevy of bloggers into bludgeon mode, with no holds barred and no moustaches unmocked. Before anyone knew it, L.A. had plated six in the sixth, and you couldn’t help feeling when the Mets (as they are keen to do) rallied late, even getting the tying run to the plate, that one fewer gaffe might’ve kept the game in true striking distance for the boys.

Or one fewer hit. Township fave Heath “Pack” Bell has likely kept most of his things in his suitcase, and yesterday’s display won’t get him any closer to finding some tri-state real estate. Everyone roots for this guy, but the widespread support seems to come from equal parts the notion that Willie and Omar have wrongly snubbed him and one quirky neo-stat (BABIP) in which he excels regularly. Watching him groove pitches to unheralded batsmen, however, you start to doubt his long-term usefulness in the Mets’ plans. He seemed all over the place last night, like you never knew if his pitches were headed to the meat, the heart, or the fat part of the plate. In truth, he wasn’t atrocious, but again, if he’d just been a little better, this game might not have gotten out of reach.

Another frequent victim of our underground press, one who's received suggestions for lineup-demotion, scrap-heap, and/or the tar and feather treatment, has been Paul LoDuca. Many among our gang still cling to the statistically supported hypothesis that Carlos Beltran is a “true number two hitter,” which warrants an ousting of LoDuca from that slot. While I do think that David Wright might better help the club upwards of his predominant 5-spot, I haven’t had too many complaints about the lineup – especially Paul LoDuca’s offensive contributions. The Mets’ not-so-prototypical lineup begins with a leadoff man with a puny OBP, so it’s not going to fit most molds from the get-go.

What I have cracked wise in the recent past about, however, has been The Duke’s errant fires toward second base in base-stealing situations. Someone needs to tell him that “coming down” need not also refer to his Caught Stealing Percentage. Yet for all of his struggles, and the gag-reflex clamoring for the days of Mike Piazza, he’s still a defensive upgrade from last year. Out in San Diego, Piazza has allowed just as many stolen bases (37) as LoDuca in far fewer innings with half the number of gun-downs (5 to Pauly’s 10). The new backstop wasn’t one of the more high-profile acquisitions, but he’s become one of my favorite Mets in a short time. By no means will it keep me from groaning as every hurl tails towards short while flat-footed clean-up hitters lumber into second, but I won't be begging for any replacements.

Anyway, what do the fans see on the surface of last night’s defeat? Pedro’s weakening and the pen just can’t do anything for him; Heath Bell just can’t cut it; Jose Valentin is not the solution for what we like to call The 2B Problem; the injuries are starting to tax the Mets; the Braves and Phillies both endured losing streaks and are still within five games; and did you see Lastings Milledge miss that pitch by three feet?; moan, groan, bitch, wail, spew piss and vinegar all over the New York Mets’ chances. In keeping with this theme, I've exaggerated my assessment of the Township’s ranting to a degree, but like in Rob’s last post, the posts and comments of too many among our loyal legion convey a palpable sense of something that registers between concern and dread, and anything close to the latter just can’t be justified at this juncture.

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