Saturday, August 02, 2008

In the Heat of the Night

Games 106 through 109 - Mets

Marlins 7, Mets 3

Mets 4, Marlins 1

Marlins 7, Mets 5

Astros 7, Mets 3

Record: 58-51

It's hot these days. Damn hot. A humid, sweaty hot, the kind in prison movies, the kind that causes failures to communicate and recidivism. Dog day afternoon? Every afternoon in the mid-Atlantic seaboard in August. It's a slow, dull crawl towards the fall, and it's especially a struggle to battle the malaise when your baseball team seems to trudging along in a similar vein.

As is seemingly always the case, just when the folks with cue cards, microphones, and/or by-lines started heralding Jerry Manuel as the salvation this Mets club needed (thereby issuing Willie Randolph a serious transitive backhand to the mug), the Mets have soured like 2% sitting in the sun. The "perfect manager for this team" fanfare, the "lovefest for Jerry" as Keith Hernandez put it, has been on the wane for several nights. Funny how the Metwagon slowing to a stop over a few games can do that.

The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between the polarized opinions the yappers (I include myself) launch like M-80's into the night, loud and fiery but ultimately mindless entertainment at best. Yappers like those on the Wheelhouse -- not the noted blog with Jerry as its proprietor, but the show on SNY, a "Sports Reporters" knock-off whose only redeeming quality, if you can call it that, is being able to listen to Scott Ferrall's ridiculous C.C. DeVille-esque voice spout inane snippets offering extreme stances you don't think for a second he really believes. And he's a Yankees fan. Honestly, he makes me almost wish less ill on Jim Rome . . . but no.

(And what's with using an upside-down M instead of a W in Wheel House?? Am I missing something?)

But back to the Mets themselves. Yeah, fellas, it's miserably hot out, and you've gone from the unbearably muggy south Florida to lovely Houston. It's hot AND you're in Texas. Morale sags. It's friggin' hot, and you, good sirs are decidedly not. Buck the fuck up and play ball.

See, I sit in my conditioned air and watch you play baseball on television because I have paid $200 or so to my satellite television provider. They, in turn, have paid the organization known as Major League Baseball a goodly sum for the right to broadcast you playing baseball to me. The owners of the franchises are paid out chunks of the aforementioned goodly sum. Said owners then pay you, the baseball players, large amounts to play baseball. It's a win-win-win-win system, at least when you win. When you lose, and lose badly, in redundant fashion, you become the weak link in the chain, and that's why I'm pointing the finger at you. Maybe you're the scapegoat. Maybe it's that pederast Hanrahan, I don't know.

So you've only lost 3 of 4 and I'm giving you crap. Why? Maybe I've been reading too much Nick at night, believing his mathed-up assessments of the Phillies v. Mets. Maybe it's in the how you are losing, the whole "blowing leads" and "squandering chances" thing. Or maybe the Mets' flaws are becoming increasingly apparent.

The soft underbelly of a supposed contender can come in a number of forms, from infield defense woes to a dearth of team speed to a lack of fundamental knowledge of the game to clubhouse in-fighting to a terrible mascot. The Mets seem to have most of these areas in decent shape. (Rock on, Mr. Met.) Middle relief, however, seems to be the Mets' undoing in all too many cases. Duaner Sanchez just isn't yet back to the fine form before the Cuban Sandwich Disaster of '06. Scott Schoeneweis has been better . . . and recently worse. Joe Smith has started to get hit again, like he misses New Orleans, for which I don't blame him. Carlos Muniz is not the answer, I think we now know. And Pedro Feliciano is simply not very good when it matters most.

And then there's Aaron Heilman. Last week, when the trade rumors were flying about, I read more than once that potential deals were undone because the Mets were unwilling to part with Heilman. Now, based on one man's assessment in the previous paragraph, you can see why they'd resist depleting that pen further, but The Aaron Heilman Era, in my mind, is coming to a close. Last night's workmanlike loading of the bases and tie-breaking gopher-ball to slugger extraordinaire Mark Loretta was just one night, just one bad outing. (So was a certain gopher ball to a certain crap-hitting catcher on a certain redbirded team in a certain NLCS game.) Heilman's continuing struggles -- his continuing departure from reliability -- makes him expendable. Glad as I was that Mets didn't try to make news with some Chuck LaMar-conceived deadline deal, I didn't agree with Heilman remaining untouchable. He's been anything but on the mound for quite some time. And he's a big part of what's plaguing the Mets right now.

Oh, and with Pedro Martinez pitching like . . . Pedro Martinez, there may be more than a soft underbelly to worry about. But that's a worry for another day. It's too damn hot to consider it today.

No comments: