Don’t like focusing on the negative? Click here for the positive in Part I
How do you ultimately judge a season where not much was expected only to have the team play inspired ball for three-plus months of the year? Especially when that strong play was followed up by inertia from the front office and then dreadful play over the final three months? I don’t know. So, instead of trying to put some type of grade on the year, here are the top 10 negative things I’ll remember about the 2012 Mets.
10. The pointless loss of a RH bat – One of the biggest problems the Mets had this year offensively was their production versus LHP. A guy who was helping was Vinny Rottino. Now, Rottino is a career AAAA guy and his overall line with the Mets was not very good. But he had hit a couple of homers, the team’s record when he started a game was 4-5 (outside of this stretch, the Mets are 17-33 against LHP) and he offered great flexibility off the bench. But the Mets cut him so they could promote LHP Justin Hampson, who tossed all of 1.1 IP before he was sent back to the minors. This move made no sense at the time and in hindsight it looks even worse. It’s not so much the players involved – losing Rottino in a vacuum is no big deal – but the insanity of the logic behind it (getting Terry Collins another lefty reliever) that was so frustrating.
9. The handling of the $25 million man – No one knew what to expect from Johan Santana this year coming back from his shoulder woes. No one knew how best to handle a veteran pitcher in this situation. Let’s just say the Mets did not treat their asset with kid gloves. Because of the no-hitter, Santana threw the most pitches of any player for the Mets this year. OK, I think we all would have done that. But he was left in way past the point where it was obvious he didn’t have it in several starts and was allowed to pitch too much after his ankle injury. Perhaps the end result was unavoidable but the way they got there sure didn’t help.
8. The 2012 Draft – It’s too soon to pass judgment on this year’s draft but at this time in 2011, I was pretty excited about at least five guys that were just drafted and I simply don’t have that feeling this time. My take is the Mets needed to grab upside with their first pick and instead they played it safe. I would bet money that Gavin Cecchini ends up making the majors. I’d also bet money that he’ll never be elected to an All-Star team. I understand that every team was dealing with the unknowns of the new draft requirements. But it appears that the Mets played it too safe. At this point in time they need the upside of a Brandon Nimmo and Michael Fulmer. Instead they got Cecchini and Kevin Plawecki. I think these guys have value; I just think the Mets should have swung for the fences instead of choking up and going the other way.
7. The adventures of Buffalo Head – I think it’s a pretty well-known idea that Lucas Duda does not have a problem with overconfidence. So the Mets put him in RF instead of LF, sent him down to the minors despite outhitting two other players on the team who should have went down before him and then Collins made a public display of pulling him from a game for not hustling on a pop fly that fell in for a hit. Collins could have done that to just about any hitter on the club yet chose the guy who struggles with confidence. Jordany Valdespin could have handled any of these and no one would worry about him. But there are some guys who need more TLC than others. It’s been a disappointing year for Duda. Perhaps if he had been managed differently it could have been better.
6. Results of Pagan deal – I want to state up front that I was in favor of this trade at the time it was made. It still does not change how poorly it has turned out for the Mets. After years of being a solid reliever, Ramon Ramirez turned into a stiff. Andres Torres did not hit and his fielding was nothing special. And to top it all off, Angel Pagan turned in a very nice year for the Giants. This deal was a disappointment in just about every way imaginable.
5. Announcement that all coaches will return next year – Should someone pay for the second-half collapse? My gut tells me yes. Yet the team has already announced that everyone is coming back. Two years in a row, the team has followed up a strong first half with much worse results after the All-Star break. In 2011, it was easy to blame trades and injuries. This year there’s no such excuse available. I think you could make a case for firing any or all of the big three coaches – the manager, the hitting coach or the pitching coach. There’s something to be said for stability. There’s also something to be said for on-field results. Just because the players like you is no reason for a coach to keep his job.
4. Offensive struggles – It’s maddening to watch hitters who let cripple pitches go by only to flail helplessly at pitches in the dirt or a foot outside. It’s frustrating to watch batters content to hit the ball the other way when it’s an inside pitch they should drive. It’s disheartening to see a lineup with Bay and Torres batting back-to-back, knowing it’s two automatic outs. It’s incredibly sad to watch David Wright be an MVP candidate in the first half only to revert back to the 2011 version the past three months. Hey but at least bench players Scott Hairston and Ronny Cedeno hit better than we expected, right?
3. Refusal to acknowledge the sunk cost – It’s bad enough that the Mets are paying Jason Bay a ton of money. They do not have to compound the problem by keeping him on the roster, much less ever starting him. I hold no grudge against Bay, who has busted his tail every time he steps between the lines. I blame those above him, who write his name in the lineup and who do not have the stones to just DFA him.
2. Mindless chasing of the platoon advantage – Collins may have 100 good traits as a manager. But his zealous devotion to playing matchups late in the game is actively hurting the team. Forget the team – it may have ended the career of Tim Byrdak. As long as the manager insists on running his bullpen to favor the relievers who pitch the fewest innings, bad things will continue to happen. Not only are the results from chasing the platoon advantage no good – it ends up making the game from a purely aesthetic point of view worse. Other than the health of his relievers, the on-field results and the enjoyment of fans watching the game – chasing the platoon advantage has been a smashing success!
1. No moves at the All-Star break – The Mets were six games over .500 at the All-Star break and right in the thick of things. However, they had glaring needs in the bullpen and for a productive RH bat. The team stumbled out of the break and ended up losing 11 out of 12 games, which effectively ended their season.
Making a move at the break may not have had any influence whatsoever on what happened. But then again it may have. People like to say that the team overachieved in the first half. But the Mets’ Pythagorean record was just one game off from its actual Won-Loss record at the break. Their record was an accurate reflection of their runs scored and allowed. Just as it is now.
No one projected the SP collapse that occurred in July. But the bullpen cost them Wins in this time frame. And the offense making any deficit a lost cause had an untold impact on the starters. No one was suggesting that the Mets mortgage the farm to make a move. All they had to do was show both the players and the fans that they cared, too. But when they needed a boost, the only move made by the front office was to cut ties with a productive Omar Quintanilla to activate a useless Bay.
The players in the dugout and the fans at home deserved better.