I think it’s safe to say the Dog Days have arrived – that all-too-familiar time when one day runs into the next and it seems like no one has any energy. People get edgier this time of year, tempers shorten and frustration lengthens. If you’re a fan of the Mets, the Dog Days started just before the All-Star Game. Talk about being edgy and frustrated…
The Mets have returned from the break in full nose-dive, posting a putrid 1-9 record. Remember “The Magic Is Back?” Right now, the Magic Is Tragic. Not only have they lost nine-of-ten, four of the losses came with an added kick in the lungs: bullpen implosions that rendered hard-fought leads or ties completely irrelevant. The past two games, in particular, have brought a fresh vision of hell to the fast-dwindling fan base: in both games, the Mets rallied hard to tie and send the contests into extra-innings, only to have each game turn into a five-plus run loss. I won’t even mention the loss last Tuesday night (7/17) that caused me to wake up at 3:00 AM with my teeth grinding and sweat on my brow. It’s gotten to that point where a friend’s father made the suggestion that if the Mets go to extra-innings again, they should just concede. If Ring Lardner had written this, it would appear too far-fetched, even for that florid, hyperbolic time. This franchise had turned losing into a particular art form, almost worthy of a sequel to Jimmy Breslin’s famous question, “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?”
The quick answer is that the bullpen stinks. This is true, but the real truth is there is plenty of blame to go around. David Wright and possibly Daniel Murphy excepted, no one on the offensive side is having a banner year. The promise of the first half of the year – that two-out fairy dust which permeated every contest and led to a belief that this train would just keep-a-rollin’ – has faded to a pallor of runners stranded on second and one-run deficits. The defense is keeping up that time-honored orange and blue tradition of committing the error at just the right time. It all seems to snowball, of course – whatever the reality. The team doesn’t play well, there isn’t an easy solution in the minor leagues, the team sinks in the quicksand that is sub-.500, the cry goes up for the front office to DO! SOMETHING! ANYTHING! and when SOMETHING! ANYTHING! isn’t done, it appears the ownership only cares about saving money rather than winning, attendance dwindles, the grumbling across all social media gets louder, and Snooki gets booed – OK, maybe that last one was a bad example.
The fact is, something does need to happen, but I don’t know what. In light of the Yankees making another one of their patented gluttonous late-season moves – they needed Ichiro Suzuki like an Eskimo needs Bermuda shorts – the Mets will probably go wanting once again. As the trade deadline approaches, it appears foolish for the Mets to be “buyers.” What would they be buying for? They’re further out of a playoff spot right now than when they made odious, infamous Kazmir-for-Zambrano deal. To reach the 88 wins it will take to capture one of the Wild Cards, the Mets would have to go 41-25 from this point. Whoever would be available on the trade market would not be that kind of a difference-maker. So a shopping spree would appear to be out.
Conversely, it’s pretty hard to be a “seller” when you have nothing to sell. The most marketable players on the team are Wright and R.A. Dickey, neither of whom is going anywhere. Johan Santana might have been sought-after, but he’s on the DL half-a-year after returning from major shoulder surgery. The return for players like Scott Hairston or Tim Byrdak or Murphy would hardly be worth the trouble of putting a deal together. The future will not be mortgaged, so the kids all stay in the picture.
So for all the appearance of Sandy Alderson sitting on his hands, that really might be the best he can do. Juxtaposed against the young, division-leading Nationals who are in town at the moment, the talent gap may as well be the Grand Canyon. Someone on Twitter last night was preaching patience for the frustrated Met fan, citing the slow-build approach of the Nats. The difference is, the Nats have Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Drew Storen and Ian Desmond. They are all young, immensely talented and under team control for the foreseeable future.
The Mets have David Wright.
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