Last night, the Mets played one of their worst-looking games of the year. Vapid offense, poor fundamentals and poor interpretation of MLB’s plate-blocking rule all conspired to turn another great performance by Bartolo Colon into another home loss to the Nationals. The game itself, while mainly unremarkable came on the heels of a flurry of news items, none of which inspire confidence going forward. For all the hope mongering going on among the fan base, there are some worrisome dregs among the tealeaves.
First to come down the pike was word that the Mets want to gently apply the brakes to Matt Harvey’s rehabilitation schedule. Presumably spooked by the setback suffered by Jeremy Hefner earlier in the week, the Mets understandably want Harvey to avoid a similar fate. Harvey, however, had a mound session on Wednesday afternoon anyway, much to the irritation of manager Terry Collins, who turned on his snark machine. The last thing this team needs right now is a rift between their megawatt mound star and the front office. It makes one wonder if the seemingly steady accumulation of slights and indignities might spark a desire in Harvey to blaze his fastball elsewhere when he gets the chance.
Shortly after that, news filtered through that Collins would likely remain the Mets’ manager in 2015. Many fans took this as a sign that things will most likely be status quo come the new year. It has been viewed as a signal that ownership is unable or unwilling to pay two managers in 2015. And if they can’t pay two managers, how can we think they’ll have the wherewithal to bring in that mythical big bat we’ve been hearing about since May? How can they leave a team on the cusp of contention in the hands of a sub-standard in-game manager? Collins’s shortcomings were on full display last night: with the Mets rallying in the ninth, courtesy of a Travis d’Arnaud homer leading off, and a base hit by Matt den Dekker immediately after, Collins called for Juan Lagares to bunt. Conventional, old-school baseball wisdom calls this the obvious play, but there are several mitigating circumstances here: Lagares is hitting over .280 and handles the bat well, he hasn’t been called on to bunt all that often, den Dekker has superior speed on the bases and the Washington closer, Rafael Soriano, was reeling. If Collins wanted to “manage,” a better call might have been to put on the old hit-and-run play so beloved of Keith Hernandez, which the Mets never do. In any case, Lagares popped out on the bunt attempt and an out was given away in vain. However true it might or might not be, it doesn’t look like Collins manages to win; he seems to manage not to lose. He appears to be a slave to “the Book,” his use of Vic Black vs. Chase Utley the other day notwithstanding. Buckle up for more of the same next year.
While all that was going on, it was reported that two of the Mets’ top off-season targets – Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales, both of the Colorado Rockies – will both miss the rest of the year. Tulowitzki is having surgery to his damaged hip, while Gonzales has strained ligaments in his knee. While this might be a signal to some that this will allow GM Sandy Alderson to “buy low” on these two, this news should take them out of the equation altogether: who wants someone else’s damaged goods? So it’s back to square one in the quest for that elusive big bat.
The fear here is that with a mostly-young outfield of den Dekker, Lagares and Curtis Granderson and Wilmer Flores manning shortstop, ownership might abandon the quest outright. They might be under the illusion that these guys are the answer. The reality is that these guys haven’t proven a blessed thing yet. No one knows if den Dekker – starting to run out of chances at 27 – can thrive under the glare of New York City or if he has enough power for a corner outfielder in today’s game. No one knows if Flores can handle short on a consistent basis defensively. Whatever success these guys have from now until the end of September, they cannot be counted on as givens come Spring Training.
So there’s all this, plus the fact that all the young pitching the Mets are counting on as givens can evaporate in the space of a couple of unlucky evenings: just ask Jacob deGrom, Bobby Parnell, Hefner and Harvey about that.
Suffice to say, as Granderson grounded out to the pitcher for the final out in that 9th inning, your intrepid columnist tweeted out “I love this team, but JE*** CH****, do they piss me off. #Mets”
This is still getting favorited and re-tweeted as we speak.
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