Only an outstanding effort by Johan Santana prevented the Mets from being swept by the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend.
After failing to win the rubber game on Sunday, New York limps back to Flushing to start a six-game homestand against Colorado and Philadelphia with a 55-56 record, nine games behind Atlanta and 7 ½ back of San Francisco in the wild card. The Mets are under .500 for the first time since May 23 and have played 12 games under .500 since June 27. The homestand begins against 17-2 Ubaldo Jimenez.
The Mets team in Philadelphia this weekend was the same tired and beaten bunch we’ve seen the last six or seven weeks. New York managed just one run through eight innings Friday. Mike Hessman’s meaningless homer in the ninth occurred after eighth-inning men Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano allowed five runs.
The Mets went several innings in each game this weekend without any baserunners and couldn’t get a big hit – both continuous trends. New York didn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position in the 1-0 win on Saturday. After getting four hits Sunday with runners in scoring position to pull within 6-5, the Mets finished 0-for-4 in those situations in the last three frames with Jose Reyes stranding the tying run on third.
When New York needed a big start Sunday from reliable R.A. Dickey, the knuckleballer got pounded over three innings, and he wasn’t helped by his defense. Beltran misjudged a deep fly ball in the second, resulting in a home run by Jayson Werth. During a five-run third, Beltran went back on a ball before letting it drop in front of him for a single. Reyes booted a routine grounder and Dickey also made a poor throw on a swinging bunt in the deciding frame.
The Mets are bloodied and battered, and it’s finally time to start making some changes, either to revive a punchless club for one last surge or to start preparing for the next battle in 2011.
The most obvious place to start would be with a new GM and manager. But that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon – at least until season’s end.
The shakeup began instead with Alex Cora. Despite all the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on these prima donnas, Minaya released the one stabilizing influence in the clubhouse, saving the Mets $2 million, Cora’s vesting option for 2011.
It’s time to find out if perennial top prospect Martinez is a stud or a dud. The 21-year-old hasn’t lived up to expectations, but should be able to fit into an outfield rotation with Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan. Martinez heated up the past week at Buffalo after recently enduring a 3-for-33 rut. He was hitting .255 with 12 homers and 33 RBI in 68 games this season. He went 1-for-4 on Sunday.
Although he didn’t hit in his first trial, Tejada replaced Luis Castillo at second base this weekend and made four spectacular defensive plays. With the Mets falling out of it, the 20-year-old should be able to relax more with every series and could prove to be a decent hitter. He was hitting .280 with one homer and 16 RBI in the minors.
With Barajas likely one-and-done, New York needs to see if Josh Thole can handle the rigors of catching on an everyday basis? Can he handle the staff, throw out baserunners and hit lefthanders. He did single twice on Sunday off Phils ace Roy Halladay and once off Brad Lidge.
Sure, Hessman has provided five RBI in 13 at-bats, but he’s 32 and won’t be a factor next season – or the rest of this season. Outfielder Jason Pridie is 27 and infielder Chris Turner, 25, are taking up space on the 40-man roster. In addition, righthanded pitching prospects Eddie Kunz and Tobi Stoner, with combined ERAs approaching 6.00, are taking up 40-man rosters spots. So the Mets have some room, but unfortunately not many prospects. However, Class AA third baseman Zach Lutz and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis have earned September at-bats.
Changes and additions need to be made to the pitching staff. Mike Pelfrey doesn’t look like he’s going to break out of his funk, and Jon Niese should start having his innings cut, so it could be Jenrry Mejia time. We may even have an Oliver Perez spotting. The lefthander hasn’t done it on the mound and has ticked off his teammates, but the Mets are into him for another two years and $24 million so why not try to salvage something.
The 20-year-old Mejia, a victim of a woeful decision by New York to start him in the bullpen, has been stretching out his arm in the minors and is due for a start in the big leagues in the next month.
Martinez, Tejada, Mejia, Nieuwenhuis, injured Class AA second baseman Reese Havens and super 19-year-old shortstop Wilmer Flores represent the new young stable of battlers for the Mets, who can cover up for only so long.
A good trainer knows when to throw in the towel, rethink the game plan and live to fight another day.
Do the Mets?