By Mike Steffanos
After dropping the first two series on this road trip, the New York Mets have an off day before beginning a 3-game series with the Cardinals tomorrow. The Mets team that is limping into St. Louis bears little resemblance to the team that showed some early-season strut in April. Losing starting pitching has been a recent problem, but it's shined a spotlight some weaknesses in the team that were there when things were going right.
The starting pitching wasn't that great before Bannister got hurt and Zambrano went out for the year. Steve Trachsel has provided the Mets zero stability behind Pedro and Glavine. No one expects him to become a Cy Young candidate, but it would be lovely if he could find a level of consistency and give this team some wins and some innings. It will be good to have Bannister back in the rotation soon, although it's hard to predict at this point what he might give us. The Mets have had to rely a little too heavily on their bullpen in 2006, and the 3-5 starters will simply have to pick things up. This team was built to rely more heavily on its solid bullpen, but they've simply been asked for too much thus far in the season.
The clutch hitting has been a problem so far, but seems to be related more to players pressing a little than anything fundamentally wrong with the team. As bad as Cliff Floyd has been for the first 6 weeks of the season, we know he's capable of getting really hot and carrying the team for a while. I just hope he can do that, because he's buried so deep within his own head right now I'm honestly worried about him. Despite Jose Valentin's terrific weekend, I don't think the Mets want him to be their every day left fielder. Cliff Floyd has been one of my favorite players on this team for some time, I've always admired they he carries himself. He's always been prone to long slumps, but the long hot streaks balanced things out. You have to wonder, however, at what point Cliff's struggles become a real distraction for this team. He's already hurting them with his failure to produce at a level anywhere close to what he's capable. His struggles are painful to watch, and at some point fairly soon the greater good of this team might demand that drastic action be taken. I'd hate to see that.
Most baseball teams are a work in progress over the course of the season, and this one is no exception. It's just unrealistic to expect a year without some significant struggle, as the team builds its identity and character as a group. Some things will work themselves out; some will require the team to make a move. It will be interesting to watch how it all plays out.
New York Times: Willie on the lack of clutch hitting
Pat Borzi quotes Willie Randolph on the team going 3-15 with RISP in yesterday's disappointing loss:
Any time a pitcher is struggling and he gets off the hook, those kind of situations bother you more than any other. But that's what happens when you don't knock people out when you have them on the ropes and you have the pitches to hit. They came back to haunt us.
Failure to produce has been a familiar theme for 2006, even when things were going pretty well.
Daily News: Bannister likely to do minor-league rehab
Adam Rubin reports the Mets are leaning towards giving Brian Bannister at least one minor-league rehab start before allowing him to resume his big league career, Rubin quotes Willie Randolph:
It's not like Pedro (Martinez) or (Tom) Glavine. He's a young kid getting his feet wet in the game.
As much as I hate to see Lima get battered again, especially against the Yankees, I would absolutely agree with this decision. Before he got hurt Bannister had not even settled into being a major-league starter. Having him come back from this injury still trying to figure things out was not a recipe for success. He's a promising kid who can help the Mets a lot this year, and being a little cautious is the correct play.
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Pelfrey struggles again in fourth Double-A start
Mike Pelfrey had his second rough outing in 4 starts for the B-Mets yesterday afternoon. He wasn't terrible, but he allowed 3 runs on 7 hits and 4 walks in 5 innings of work. I'm sure he'll figure things out, but he's proving how right the Mets are for allowing him time to develop.