Let’s say a MLB team is not expected to compete much in its division. They’re short on talent, been known to have money troubles and have been having difficulty attracting fans to its ballpark. Let’s say most pundits have picked them to finish no better than fourth – and only because the team that’s projected to finish fifth can scarcely be called a “major league” team at all. There are no illusions about this team. But just because expectations are low, doesn’t mean that a game or a season can’t be infuriating.
Meet the 2013 New York Mets.
There are flashes here. There’s Matt Harvey, of course. Lucas Duda looks like he may have found the secret combo of patience and power that are the earmarks of a successful hitter. Jonathon Niese has looked solid as the rotation’s rock. David Wright is still on the team. The Mets have played nine games in ’13 and have been “in” eight of them – meaning, they’ve had at least a puncher’s chance at victory. There are glowing reports from Las Vegas and the lower bushes to give a Met fan hope for the future. It’s the present that’s giving us fits.
A game like last night’s (4/10) causes the seasoned Met fan to reach for the Bromo-Seltzer. Let’s start off with Jeremy Hefner and his Philliephobia. Last year, Hefner entered the history books as the only pitcher to allow the first seven hitters of a game to reach base without recording an out. That was the last time he faced the Phils. He did far better in his latest game: he only allowed the first six to reach before retiring a batter. A lucky overslide on a steal attempt by Ben Revere allowed the first inning damage to be held to a mere five runs. Still, there was hope. A monsoon blew along the East Coast, delaying things in Philadelphia in the bottom of the fourth and thoroughly soaking your intrepid columnist’s backyard. Most Met fans hoped for a continued dampening while they watched SNY’s presentation of Mets Yearbook:1973, as that would wash away the foolishness of the previous three innings. No luck there, either. The delay only lasted twenty-seven minutes. By the top of the fifth, however the Mets stirred a bit. Another John Buck homer in the second and a Duda blast into the teeth of the storm in the fourth had brought the score to 5-2. Jordany Valdespin reached on a bunt single and Daniel Murphy worked out a walk. Wright waved at a pitch on his ankles for the first out. A Kyle Kendrick wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. A slumping Ike Davis was the next batter. A hit here would bring the Mets within one, and go a long way toward washing the taste of inning one from everyone’s palate. Davis hit a soft fly to center, which Revere loped in for and gloved easily. Valdespin put his head down and trotted toward the plate, confident in bringing the Mets within two.
In one of the most yarn-headed plays you’ll ever see, Murphy danced toward third after the ball was caught, failing to tag up at second. The throw beat Murphy back to the bag BEFORE Valdespin crossed the plate, resulting in an inning-ending double play and negating the run. The stream of invective over Twitter could be heard from here to Canarsie. Valdespin, a flashy hot dog should have been sprinting after the tag. Murphy…well, the Lord only knows where Murphy was going or where his head was. The Mets’ bullpen then gave up whatever ghost was left, with LaTroy Hawkins surrendering a two-run jack to Laynce Nix in the bottom of the sixth and by the time Duda smoked his second shot of the game, it wasn’t worth paying attention.
Something has got to give with this pitching staff. The pall started on Sunday afternoon, with Aaron Laffey — a 27-year-old journeyman — proving he’s no Jose Fernandez, who’s all of 20. The Mets were managerial blunders and a generous umpire away from losing two-of-three to the Marlins. After the all-too-brief respite of Harvey’s start, both Dillon Gee and Hefner were destroyed by the Phils, neither making it through the fourth and taxing an already-beleaguered bullpen. We are pining for Shaun Marcum, of all people, to get healthy and hoping Zack Wheeler finds his command, Super Two status be damned.
It can’t happen soon enough.
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