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A Storm Before The Calm?

By Beecher Tuttle

If one were to look back at last year’s New York Mets roster and attempt to find a cause for its second consecutive late season collapse, all one would need to do is pop in a tape of the last three innings of almost any game played in August or September. Any game not started by Johan Santana of course.

After a surprising mid-season surge, the Mets bullpen fell back into an all too familiar routine, leaving many of us to simply wonder when, rather than if, the inevitable in-game collapse would occur. The bullpen didn’t receive any favors when their All-Star closer was hit with a career threatening and season ending elbow injury in the beginning of August. The Mets blew 29 saves in 72 chances in 2008 and had a 4.25 ERA without Billy Wagner—4.40 in September alone. As Omar Minaya, Jerry Manuel, and the rest of the Mets brass spent their October watching the archrival Philadelphia Phillies win a World Series largely in part to the dominant seasons of closer Brad Lidge and set-up man Chad Durbin, it was obvious where the offseason work needed to be done.

The signing of Francisco Rodriguez and the trade for J.J. Putz should help to alleviate the white-knuckle moments that Met fans have become accustomed to in late game situations. K-Rod’s 62 saves last year broke the all-time single season record and Putz, scheduled to be a set-up man for the Mets in ‘09, is one year removed from being an all-star closer in his own right. With the hope of strong comeback years from Duaner Sanchez and Pedro Feliciano, the optimistic Mets fan can look forward to less stressful conclusions to closely contested baseball games.

The pessimistic Mets fan, on the other hand, has two major concerns that have yet to be dealt with this winter—namely left field and the back half of the starting rotation. The Mets have spent the offseason with an all too confident air about themselves in terms of their plans to platoon Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis in left field. Tatis was a great story and, sadly enough, was one the best pressure performers with the Mets in ‘08, but can we really have all that much faith in a 33 year-old outfielder who went without a single major league at-bat for 3 of the past 5 seasons? Daniel Murphy had an equally inspirational year, but had only 2 homeruns and stole zero bases while playing in 49 games for the Mets. Not exactly the type of production that you would be looking for out of a starting left fielder on a contending team.

As for the starting rotation, the Mets thin out quite considerably after a strong projected top three of Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine. Even with the hopes of reacquiring inconsistent free agent pitcher Oliver Perez, the Mets would have to rely on an even less consistent Jonathan Neise as the fifth starter if the season began tomorrow.

With much of the media attention on the Mets top two free agent acquisitions, the holes currently left on their major league roster should create some skepticism in the back of fans minds moving forward. The Mets have vocally passed on left fielder Manny Ramirez, shown no interest in corner outfielders Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn, and lost out on a sweepstakes for Derek Lowe to a team in their own division. The question that must be asked is, are the Mets sitting back and planning on taking advantage of the economic downturn that has cooled the initial free agent market, or has owner Fred Wilpon’s publicized personal investments with notorious Wall Street scam artist Bernie Madoff been more crippling than once thought? Has the Mets new move to Citi Field helped stunt the very spending that we hoped it would perpetuate?

The mid and large market teams, once thought to be impervious to worsening economic conditions, are beginning to show cracks in their armor. The San Diego Padres have attempted to trade Jake Peavy throughout the offseason in a veiled effort to get younger, while dispersing of his contract worth $52 million; the Denver Nuggets traded away All-Star Center Marcus Camby to the L.A. Clippers for nothing—literally, nothing; the Arena Football League has cancelled its entire 2009 season. Teams in the 4 major sports (except the Yankees of course) are cutting payroll and laying off employees at all levels.

So again the question is, how will the economy affect the product that the Mets put on the field in 2009? The manner in which the Mets address their two most glaring weaknesses over the next two months should be a clear indicator.

7 comments:

  1. Some great points made in this article. But in regards to the starting rotation, I think Rosie Perez could do better down than the stretch for us than Oli... and speaking of rosie, why don't we just get her husband from White Men Can't Jump to play either of the corner OF spots... "Come on Willy!"

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  2. Interesting read, thanks. Of course Bernie screwed the Mets, never trust a ......However if you really think that Mike, "I am 6'7 230 and couldnt scare a little girl in a dark alley" Pelfrey is a reliable 3rd starter for an entire year, you are out of your mind.

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  3. Where is Wade Boggs?

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  4. Great article with good insight. Look forward to hearing more from you throughout the season.

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  5. "Beecher Tuttle" must be a pen name (nom de plume), right?

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  6. I like this writer.

    Who is he?

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  7. Pelfrey has been a top prospect for a long time, and has demonstrated great progress, including that 11-2 stretch and some huge performance. Is everyone out of their mind?

    And I think the author is related to Harriet Beecher Tubman. She is a good author and knows a lot about the Mets.

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