2008 was a disappointing year for my favorite teams, the New York Mets and New York Jets. Both entered their respective seasons with high hopes and looked poised for a playoff spot heading into the stretch run. It was not meant to be, as both collapsed in the final month of the season. The Mets’ swoon was not as epic as the Jets’, but I see some parallels between the teams. Here’s a look at some of the key figures and events for the 2008 Mets and their Jets counterparts.
Mets: Johan Santana
Jets: Brett Favre (from Week 1 through Week 12)
Both of these superstars came to New York from midwestern teams with significant hype and expectations. Santana was brilliant from Opening Day through game 161. Despite a slight decline in his strikeout and walk rates, he was one of the top two best pitchers in the league along with Tim Lincecum. Favre was an MVP candidate through week 12, as he racked up 20 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. From that point onward, he became the Jets equivalent of Aaron Heilman, Luis Ayala and Scott Schoeneweis rolled into one.
Mets: The bullpen
Jets: Brett Favre (from Week 13 through Week 17)
The Mets bullpen wasn’t the only culprit in late 2008, but it was the biggest. The same can arguably be said of Favre. Yes, the Jets coaching staff made some odd play-calls and the dominant offensive line may have lost a step late in the season, but it’s tough to stay competitive when the quarterback is throwing pick after pick (nine interceptions in the final five games). Omar Minaya has blown up the Mets bullpen this offseason, but it remains to be seen whether or not Brett Favre will be back in 2009. Hopefully he’ll make a quick and definite decision to retire to the quiet life in Mississippi.
Mets: Willie Randolph
Jets: Eric Mangini
Randolph was fired mid-season and Mangini was canned after the season so the comparison isn’t perfect. Plus a football coach has a far greater impact on the game than a baseball manager. Regardless, both absorbed the blame for each team’s failures and received criticism for their stoic demeanor. Randolph found employment soon after the season ended on the Milwaukee Brewers’ coaching staff, and Mangini is rumored to be a top candidate for the vacant Cleveland Browns head coach position.
Mets: Jose Reyes
Jets: Thomas Jones
Reyes and Jones are All-Star caliber players who had overall excellent seasons. Reyes is the second best shortstop in baseball behind Hanley Ramirez. He was paid $4.4 million this year but was worth $25.5 million according to the win value system. Jones was fifth in the NFL in rushing yards, and scored an impressive 15 touchdowns. Granted, he didn’t accomplish this alone – the Jets offensive line was excellent, sending two players to the Pro Bowl (Alan Faneca and Nick Mangold). One other similarity is both players’ production drop-off in the last month of the season:
September-November: 90.7 rush yards/game, 1.08 TD/game
December: 56 rush yards/game, 0.5 TD/game
While I don’t believe Reyes is “unclutch”, it cannot be denied that he has struggled in September the last two seasons. Hopefully he will snap out of it in September 2009.
Mets: Sept. 7th, Mets 6 – Phillies 3 (Game 2 of doubleheader)
Jets: Week 12, Jets 34 – Titans 13
At the time, each of these wins looked like the signature victory for a likely playoff team. Santana threw 7.1 brilliant innings and Carlos Delgado hit a pair of 400+ foot bombs off Phillies ace Cole Hamels on the Sunday night national stage. The Mets were two games up in the standings with a few weeks to go. The Jets beat the 10-0 Titans on the road in emphatic fashion. New York tabloids predicted a Jets-Giants Super Bowl, and it didn’t seem too far-fetched. However, each team went in a different direction as the Giants secured the top seed in the NFC playoffs.
Mets: Sept. 28th, Marlins 4 – Mets 2
Jets: Week 17, Dolphins 24 – Jets 17
The tenants of Dolphin Stadium put an embarrassing end to the Mets and Jets seasons on the New York teams’ home turfs. Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom, who threw the final pitch in Shea Stadium history, has a Dolphins counterpart: quarterback Chad Pennington. Lindstrom was traded by the Mets to the Marlins in November 2006. Pennington was released by the Jets and signed by the Dolphins in the summer of 2008. I’m pretty sure that the Mets and Jets would love to undo these transactions.
I tried to find a comparison for the Mets awful second base situation but the Jets’ pass rush, wide receivers and special teams were nowhere near as horrible as the Luis Castillo/Damion Easley/Argenis Reyes triumvirate. Let’s hope 2009 is kinder to my favorite teams.