September 18, 2008
No Collapse Here

The mainstream media, and especially ESPN, would have you believe that this season is another September collapse by the New York Mets. As a member of the fan base, I’ve been watching the results play out, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this season is so remarkably different to last season. While last year the Mets had a lead of seven games with 17 games to play over Philadelphia, this year’s team actually came from behind to take a three-and-a-half-game lead over the Phillies. Unlike last season, this year the Mets have dealt with so many injuries, they legitimately can say on paper that they should have no chance at this division.

Neither starting corner outfielder for our projected Opening Day lineup will play 100 games this season, due to their injuries. This might have been expected to happen with Moises Alou, considering he’s in the age demographic that won’t coincide with Carl Everett’s religious beliefs, but Ryan Church’s fluke head injury could not have been anticipated, nor the manner in which it happened. Yunel Escobar was about 30 feet toward second base when Church began his slide, and that play by itself probably doomed the Mets. The most talented of their backups, Angel Pagan and Fernando Tatis, both went down with injuries caused by their fielding. (Give a short pause for the reflection required to admire the irony of that statement.)

We lost Luis Castillo in July, and even though he’s now come back to play, that level of play has been so poor that he might as well never have come back. He won’t make it into 100 games this season.

We lost Billy Wagner in August, and, regardless of his peripherals, this was one of his worst seasons, according to WARP, Win Shares, and WPA, since he became a star closer. He had an 80% success rate for saves, blowing seven before being shut down for the season and undergoing Tommy John surgery. The difference in WPA between Wagner and Brad Lidge, the Phillies closer, is more than four wins.

Aaron Heilman has turned into Guillermo Mota, as have almost all of our relievers; they have a negative WRXL for the second half of the season, which means replacement level would be an upgrade in performance. We’ve blown 27 saves this season.

We lost John Maine by August 23rd, but really we should look to his leaving the game in Florida on July 28th as the true end of his season.

I haven’t even mentioned Pedro Martinez, who left his first start of the season injured, and returned two months later…only to look so awful many wish he had never come back. Even our stop-gap replacements shrewdly signed by Omar Minaya, Claudio Vargas and Tony Armas, Jr., were lost for the season due to injury. Their projected replacement, Jason Vargas, has only recently started pitching in the Arizona Fall League after missing most of the season recovering from hip surgery.

If you look at the games lost to injury from our starters, we dwarf that of our nearest rival, the Philadephia Phillies. What’s their excuse for only having a half-game lead over the Mets at the time of writing? Their closer hasn’t blown a save this season. Our closer blew seven before being shut down in August. Our interim “closer,” Luis Ayala, blew two of his own. Where were their injuries? Jimmy Rollins missed some time in April and May. Geoff Jenkins was lost for the season after playing in more regular season games than Church will be able to this season, even if Church plays every game down the stretch. The only injury you thought might have hurt the Phillies before the season began was the loss of Tom Gordon, but the way he pitched it was a blessing in disguise.

What I’m trying to say, as I parade the numerous things that have gone wrong for the Mets is this: the mainstream media won’t mention all of our injuries. They don’t want to hear excuses from the Mets, and the Mets won’t give any to the press. But the mainstream media has always been anti-Mets, and that’s not going to change. I’m even hearing rumblings of excuses from the Bronx, pointing to their injuries. This team is not supposed to be where it is right now at all, and with all the things that have gone wrong for us this season, you have to look positively on what we have a chance for this season.

Think positively: we’re currently only a half-game behind the Phillies and a half-game ahead of the Brewers. If you were to tell any one of us this horror checklist of injuries and poor performances before the season and tell us we’d be only a half-game out of first, we would have laughed in your face. If anything, we’ve over-performed in several facets of the game. So, as hard as this is to hear, take the rest of this season for granted. We shouldn’t have had meaningful games in September to begin with; this is all just gravy, caring about every game we have left. And that’s far and away the best we could have hoped for with all these injuries.

16 Responses to “No Collapse Here”

  1. Comment posted by Eli on September 18, 2008 at 2:44 am (#849596)

    True, the 2007 collapse can be attributed to a collective under performance. I hope the Mets will still make the playoffs but if they don’t, I am not sure they canl be accused of under-performing. No one expects Ayala to be a lights out closer. No one expects Brandon Knight to shut down the opposition. No one expects A Reyes to keep up offensively what he did several months ago. In short, due to a lot of injuries, expectations cannot be that high. The blame instead would be on the shoulders of Omar for constructing such a geriatric team. I guess in his defense (and I don’t defend Omar often), no one would have expected that the relief pitching group he constructed would be so bad. But if the Mets make the playoffs, and there is a reasonably good chance that they’ll beat out either the Phillies or Milwaukee, all will be overlooked.

  2. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on September 18, 2008 at 5:18 am (#849599)

    There seems to be a parsing of words, here, though.

    The bullpen went to crap in ’07 and our hopes were dashed on the rocks.

    The bullpen went to crap in ’08 and we’re very close to being dashed on those same rocks again.

    To argue out, point by point, the specific differences between the situations… which certainly do exist… is to ignore the general strong similarity of the end product.

    As much as a sporting event can, our hearts were ripped out and it feels like it’s happening again.

    You want to call one A Collapse and one A Disappointment of Injuries, you can call one Steve and the other Morganna or whatever you like.

    Hurts like the same kinda hell. Similar results so far.

  3. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2008 at 8:03 am (#849603)

    I couldn’t agree more, Future.

  4. Comment posted by mookie03 on September 18, 2008 at 8:15 am (#849608)

    Well said, future. That they’ve made it this far after where they were in early June is a small miracle.

    In a close race, making the playoffs has more to do with getting hot at the right time than one team collapsing. The Phils have gotten really hot all of the sudden, the Mets have cooled a bit. A few weeks ago it was the other way around. Who knows whether it flips again before the season ends?

  5. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester 2.0 is an optimistic yahoo on September 18, 2008 at 8:48 am (#849627)

    Nice job Future.

    LFM – last year the team was also guilty of lackidasical play at times. I have not seen that this year.

  6. Comment posted by Hubie on September 18, 2008 at 9:17 am (#849654)

    Injuries have played a role but the fact remain this team had a 3.5 game lead and quickly let it slide away. Losing 4 of 6 to the Braves and Nats is pitiful and worthy of the choke word, especially when you blow 2 leads and lose 1-0 to Odalis Perez.

  7. Comment posted by Athena on September 18, 2008 at 9:24 am (#849670)

    Nice article, Future. I agree completely.

  8. Gravatar
  9. Comment posted by Future, now with a present J.D. on September 18, 2008 at 10:55 am (#849869)

    There’s so much negativity going on right now, even some coming from me. This was an article written as much to myself as everyone in the Mets fanbase as well as the Mets-hating mainstream media. I have to look at this season as one where everything went wrong already. If we make the playoffs, I’m going to be thrilled. As I should be. If we don’t I have to look to the fact that we downright sucked this year at times, and we had so many injuries it’s like every position outside of SS, 3B, and 1B were Chipper Jones-fragile.

    Lets take a deep breath and enjoy this season for what it is.

  10. Comment posted by sheadenizen on September 18, 2008 at 12:31 pm (#850003)

    hear, hear, future. Nicely said!

  11. Comment posted by Jerry from Queens on September 18, 2008 at 12:55 pm (#850014)

    “Mets-hating mainstream media” ? Please. You sound like the Conservatives always complaining about the liberal leaning left media. The Mets were built to win now. Minaya was given $140M to build a winner.
    He failed to build a bullpen and squandered cash on old players (El Duque, Castillo, Pedro, Wagner, Alou). He sat on his hands at the trade deadline. This team led the division by 3 1/2 games a week ago and responded by losing 4 of 6 to Braves and Nats. Anything short of a wild card berth is a disappointing season.

  12. Gravatar
  13. Comment posted by Future, now with a present J.D. on September 18, 2008 at 1:05 pm (#850030)

    The mainstream sports media has always been anti-Mets. ESPN and CNNSI both. Those are the two big national media outlets for sports, and they have Phillies-lovers on their payroll (Olney, Stark) and CNNSI has Verducci and Heyman who both blow the Phillies at every turn. It’s gotten to the point where if the Mets win and the Phillies lost, I could actually tell just by seeing the headlines: because there would be nothing mentioned about either. When the Phillies win and the Mets lose, it was always in the headlines.

    We have never won an MVP award despite having several incredible candidates. The Phillies have won the last two, both times not deserving it.

  14. Gravatar
  15. Comment posted by DL on September 18, 2008 at 1:54 pm (#850128)


  16. Comment posted by lucienlc on September 18, 2008 at 7:10 pm (#850511)

    Very well said, Future. I’ve been saying this for days now, but not nearly so thoughtfully and eloquently.

    And I’d like to boot-kick the mainstream sports media into the nearest septic system. They’d probably feel right at home there.

  17. Comment posted by Bangkok Mets Fan on September 19, 2008 at 6:26 am (#851338)

    One other big difference between this year and last is we fired our regular manager in mid-season and so only have an “interim” manager to lead the team this year. Of course, this “disadvantage” is probably why we will win the division this year.

  18. Comment posted by Jerry from Queens on September 19, 2008 at 6:18 pm (#851991)

    Every fan thi thinks there is a bias by the national media against their team. When I was in
    California, they used to talk about an alleged “East Coast bias.” How many times have the Mets been on ESPN and Fox if you think the networks are out to get them ? By the way, nearly everyone at ESPN either picked the Braves or Mets to win the division including Olney and Stark who both predicted the Braves and Mets would both make the playoffs — not the Phils. These guys don’t know that much. I don’t know why you care so much what they think.

  19. Comment posted by gooden85 on September 23, 2008 at 3:01 pm (#856916)

    yeah but the braves are probably the one team that’s had even more injuries than the mets… so who knows what they might have done.

    the mets just have a spectacular habit of losing late, which is usually perceived as psychologically weak…