Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Waterboys

Games 146 through 149 - Mets

Phillies 3, Mets 2
Phillies 5, Mets 3
Phillies 10, Mets 6
Nationals 12, Mets 4
Record: 83-66

There's a legion of folks in Mets Township this morning who are going overboard with melodramatic, Chicken Little hysterics after the Mets crapped themselves for a fourth straight game. They're insinuating that there's now some doubt not only about whether the Mets can stave off the Phillies, but whether they can even salvage a postseason spot. They're freaking out, having watched the Mets perform the role of "worst-looking team in baseball" for a quartet of games, and now these idiots are suggesting that the Mets are in deep, deep trouble.

Well . . . I think you're going to have to lump me in with that group.

I can't watch any more. I settled in for a night of Met baseball and Redskins football, and was pleased to see the Metmen notch four quick ones off Nat pitching. Almost felt sorry for the hapless Nationals. The lesson, as always . . . you know. And then the invariable unraveling proceeded. Quickly.

Current Problems, As I See 'Em

1. The defense, or the bourbon-soaked drunk walk that's passing for it. Boots, bobbles, and bad throws -- they're occurring with startling regularity. The talking heads have praised the Mets' D all season long. If they still think so after the infield has become a swamp of slippery people, they're blind.

2. The mental midgetry. Twice a game the Mets seem to make a play that can only be described as "ill-advised." Honestly, you just feel like a Jim Leyland would have pounded these bad instincts out of his players' heads in spring training, and here we are in mid-September watching head-shaking gaffes. Both #1 and #2 speak to the third entry...

3. A total lack of concentration, sense of import, and fire. Sorry, I don't count getting tossed out of games after watching yet another Strike 3 go by, even if the umpiring has been as clumsy as the fielding. Miscalculations, plays that aren't quite made, and games that get away from you . . . these are things that happen to the best of teams from time to time. For the Mets, this is currently the permanent menu du jour. It's eye-scratchingly painful to watch, and while you feel that these intangibles are easier to correct than, say, a massive hitting slump, Willie Randolph is looking less and less like the guy to fix such problems.

Ol' Willie. He doesn't seem to be sweating a drop as the Phillies creep 2.5 games back of the Mets; it's part of his stoic persona as manager of this team. I generally like that approach, and I think we could do a lot worse than Willie Randolph for manager, but if this slide continues, there will inevitably be a barrage targeting his skippering of this sinking ship. And it won't be entirely misguided. Someone has to be accountable for this muck; Omar and his inability/unwillingness to bolster the bullpen can share the burden, but Willie's going to hear about it, right or wrong.

If the Mets do fall out of the postseason, there will be calls for his job. They won't be sensible, but they will be heartfelt. Someone has to pay for our agony, at least according to us. He won't be fired, of course; historically, that happens sometime later. Mauch lasted 3.5 more seasons, Zimmer two more, and even Marcel Lachemann made it 110 or so more games. (But hmm, do you see a trend?)

Players will be alienated, booed for reasons legitimate and not so much. As Charles Barkley said last night, no matter what athletes say in the press, they do read the papers, they do watch TV, and they cannot help but take it personally when the fans turn on them. Shea Stadium hasn't been a place where the '07 Mets thrive, but it could get a lot less friendly when they return next week. Who knows what that means for the off-season, for returning players and those looking for a new home? It's ugly, but it's part of playing in New York, they say. Brace yourself, boys.

And what of the 2007 Mets' legacy? We've been slotting them into positions of greatness all season; that's what we do as we chronicle the fortunes of a team pegged for 90-plus wins. The what-ifs and the prospect of scanning StubHub for NLDS, NLCS, and dare we say it -- a date with the Boston Red Sox in the rematch of all time (as far as this blog is concerned) . . . it all seems laughably silly at this point. We've considered the apocalypse that Misery Loves Company will be if the Mets and Sox square off in the Fall Classic; perhaps we ought to ponder the carnage if they both gag their way out of the playoffs?

And hence, the getting carried away. It's just so easy to forget that the Mets are still in first-place, even if they look like Bingo Long's Traveling All-Stars as they make the Nats look like an MLB powerhouse. This is a team with a huge payroll, actual All-Stars, and playoff experience. Hall of Fame pitchers, the brightest of young stars, and veteran league leaders. No team is without its blemishes (the Phillies' pen nearly squandered an 11-run cushion last night), and perhaps the reality check of this suckage -- and honestly, it's the suckiest sort of suckage I have seen in some time -- is what they need to humble individuals and unite the club. Maybe they're poised for actual legend, a la the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals?

But for the record, I've just described what's down that other road. Choose wisely, boys, and good luck.


Jerry said...

Have no fear, I'm back on the intensity train again. Every time I start getting bored with the season, the Mets slip back into the Danger Zone. They're just trying to keep things interesting, recognizing that last year got boring and it was hard to get back into the groove.

Bunch of crappy teams on the schedule. No off-days. It's time to start rolling again.

Just to prove I'm not messing around, I'll be at the game tonight.

The Mets will finish the year 5 games ahead of the Phillies. Take it to the bank.

Whitney said...

From my long-suphpherin' phriend Nick (and I think it's best spelled "phutility":

"Well, I visited MLC today. Actually, I visit always after a Phils/Mets series to read your take. I am glad I don’t have a Google account because from this phan’s perspective, we are witnessing the classic con game. If I had that coveted free Google account you nagged me about, I’d surely have posted something silly after each inexplicable Phillies sweep of the Township only to eat my words the following series. The Phils swept a 3 game set in early June and then lost 2 of 3 to lowly Kansas City . Then came the infamous 4 game sweep in late August which was followed up by an uninspired 2 and 4 stretch vs. the moribund Marlins and the benign Braves. So we follow up this latest minor miracle in Phlushing with a 3 game set against the reeling Cards. Can’t you see the set up? It’s as transparent at a Manhattan shell game. You have to be pretty gullible to think an 11 run lead is safe against a team of underachieving title defenders biding their time checking flight availability to Latin America or booking tee times at posh golf destinations. Nosiree, you can’t arise early enough in the AM to fool me. Uncle Cholly ain’t restin’ so I ain’t either. (Okay, I can’t mimic the Blue Ridge accent in use down Beeyoona Vista way.)

That’s the key, however. Look at Charlie. Does he look comfortable? Hell no! He knows it will all go south of cheese pretty quickly. So, instead of hoping and praying and analyzing the remaining twelve games to see which are wins and which are losses and which are tossups, I am resolved that these cursed Phillies are about to embark on a 12 game stretch of futility not seen in South Philly since September of ’64. Trust me, by Sunday, the story is over. The Township will be able to rest the post season roster and spend some time looking at the September callups.

If you know what I am up to, please don’t narc me out to the baseball gods."