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It Ain't Easy Being Orange and Blue

Mike SteffanosFriday, August 31, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Sorry I haven't written much this week. I picked up a third big project for work, and I just don't have much free time. I did watch the games, and frankly was grateful to have a lot of work to bury myself back into when they were over.

One thing I don't have to beat myself up for is getting cocky when the Mets built the seven game lead. I started to realize this team was missing passion and fire back in May when they still had a very good record. I've long since stopped buying in to a week of good play as evidence that they've turned it around.

Having said that, I'm a little surprised that some Mets fans are now really down on the team's chances. An acquaintance of mine even officially declared it "football season" after yesterday's loss -- washing his hands of the club for 2007. I don't blame him or anyone else from being disgusted. On the other hand, in this up and down year I'm sure there is some "up" still to come. Hope it's this weekend, because we all need a break from lousy play.

My Mom is a bigger Mets fan than me, and takes the bad times even harder than I do. We had our somber post-mortem on the Phillies series over the phone last night, and after a while she was talking about how great it would be if this week's 4 game debacle finally woke the team up. My Mom is the quintessential Mets fan -- a little shell-shocked from years of disappointment, but also a disciple of Tug and his "Ya Gotta Believe" mantra. It made me think of a similar conversation we had last October when the Cardinals went up 3-2 and the Mets were pitching Maine and Perez in the hopes of saving their season. What I wrote then still seems applicable to now:

This is a franchise that is down much more than it is up, yet if there is one common denominator among Mets fans, it is their unswerving belief that their team can somehow find the magic to bounce back from the brink of disaster. As a whole, we're generally a fairly pessimistic group, but not when our back is to the wall. Mets fans are certainly not perfect, and we feel no need to anoint ourselves as the "best fans in the world," but what I love about Mets fans is our ability to hope.

Almost all of you reading these words are far more than just casual fans. We climb aboard the exhausting marathon of a baseball season from the beginning of April and faithfully stay until the last out has been recorded. Our reward in most years is disappointment, but we haven't quit on the team yet and we won't now. It's as simple as that.

Last year's team was easier to like than 2007's somewhat dispassionate underachievers. It bothered me for a long time this year how easily they seemed to accept defeat to their division rivals, because I was afraid this would happen and it would all catch up to them. Yet, now that it has, I'm not that angry anymore. They are what they are, and I'm a lifelong fan. I'm still rooting for them to find the magic and put it all together this year. My Mom deserves it.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (12)

The funny thing is, their division rivals suck, they probably won't make the playoffs. So it barely matters that they struggle to beat them on most days. They'll slaughter everyone else in September, easily not playing 2-4 games worse than Philly and Atlanta, and cruise into the playoffs. It might be a cruise not in that they have no competition, but that they know that competition has no gas and can't go fast enough to catch them.

This is kind of silly isn't it? We're still in 1st place, so look on the brightside:

C - Paul LoDuca is NOT Mike Piazza. He can still throw and he will be clutch in the playoffs.

1B - Delgado is still extremely dangerous.

2B - Whoever we place here kicks ass!

SS/3B - One word... Elite

OF - Endy's back. What an arm!
Beltran is a silent assassin

SP - Pedro's coming back. Our biggest concern is to many starters for the playoffs!

RP - See above, El Duque becomes safety net reliever for the playoffs
Wagner's is still an elite closer.

Bench - Class of the league!

I've been a Mets fan since the early 80's when my big brother started taking me to games. Let's get a few things straight. This offense stinks! It has stunk for a long time, and my brother will attest that I've been screaming about it since before the playoffs last year. They are undisciplined and leave too many runners in scoring position. This has been going on for a long time (frankly it goes back to the Piazza days, but I'll stick to more recent history). Does anyone remember the fact that the Mets went basically O for the months of August and September last year? From August 1st to the end of the season, they were just a couple games over 500 and in 20 of their 24 losses they scored 3 runs or less. Was it really a shock that the offense went into the tank in a tight 7 game series against the Cardinals?? And now we have Groundhog day all over again. Delgado is shot, Omar should have released him at the AllStar break and made the big splash to get Teixera instead of letting him go to the Braves. Omar is the most over-rated GM in baseball. Don't get me wrong, the Mets are better since we got Omar but that is mainly because he was replacing that idiot Steve Phillips. I would have called Phillips a retard, but that would have been insulting to mentally handicapped people around the world. If only we could have dressed Phillips up in a dog costume and sent him to Michael Vicks house the world would be a better place today. Omar made no attempt to improve the team's offense during the offseason, and he made extremely questionable deals with the bullpen which have all exploded in his face. Everyone crows about the Oliver Perez deal, but keep in mind that he actually sent Nady (not a great player but a productive bat that they could have used in the playoffs) to Pittsburgh for Roberto Hernandez who was off the team in like 3 days. Perez was thrown in at the last minute and Omar tried to re-trade him immediately but couldn't get a deal done. Shawn Green stunk for several years before we got him and he continues to be a lousy player who never comes through in the clutch and couldn't catch the plague if he lived in medieval Venice. Everyone kills the bullpen and they are certainly not good, but keep in mind that if the Mets ever pushed a tack-on run across with two outs and a runner in scoring position, the relievers wouldn't be put in these games with absolutley zero margin for error. I could rant on and on but let me just send out this one simple message to Omar;


Thank you.

PS - I realize that Delgado just hit a three run homer against the Braves, but that does not change my opinion about anything that I stated earlier.

It's amazing how the debacle in Philadelphia is causing everyone to rally around this team. Suddenly, we no longer think of them as lackluster. They played, um, imperfectly but they played with spirit. Now we think of them as flawed but willing to struggle to preserve their slim lead. Suddenly everybody likes them. The emotional weather changes in an instant. I love it. Maybe we can have some fun with this season now. It can be a classic Mets story: the scrappy underdogs. It's funny how even when they're amazingly good (as in 1986), they seem to have to stumble to win.

Jon, I thought your comments were interesting--especially your use of the phrase "professional hitter". It got me thinking. What is a professional hitter, exactly? To me, it's someone who is a perennial .300 guy, who's consistent, and makes good contact. If you're talking about an elite hitter, to me that's a guy who hits consistently around .320 or better.

So how many of those guys are there? I just checked ESPN's batting stats and was a bit surprised by what I saw. In the AL, there are only 24 regular players who have a batting average over .300. In the NL? Only 15! And as for the really elite hitters, there are 9 guys in the AL hitting over .320 and only 6 in the NL.

What about our guys? Well, Wright right now is 7th in the league and Reyes is 19th (actually he and Jimmy "Met DESTROYER" Rollins have the same .296 average).

My question is, if you're talking about the really elite hitters in MLB (which is who I think you're talking about), how many of those .320 guys (there are only 15 in all of baseball!!) are available?

As a follow-up to my last question, we've already got a SS, 3B, and CF who aren't going anywhere in the foreseeable future, which means you're talking about upgrading at C, 1B (very unlikely) and at the corners. We've got young talented OFs. Do you want to import another big bat instead of giving them a chance to prove themselves?

Omar just picked up Castillo and he's been pretty decent for us so far....

Granted Alou's been out for most of the year, but he's hitting pretty well for us now, so who do you go after? Griffey? Eric Byrnes?

I understand your frustration--we ALL do--but aside from acquiring a big bat like Griffey's, I'm not sure what can be done to improve our our offense.

Chris, where are you in Japan? I used to live in Osaka.

Anyway, back to the Mets. I like Wright, Reyes and I'm even willing to accept Beltran for what he is (an extremely talented individual with pop in his bat and great defense, but strikes out way to much and particularly in clutch situations). Beyond them there is nobody on this team that consistently scares an opponent. Alou was a nothing deal because Omar basically swapped a 36 year old constantly injured outfielder for a 40 year old constantly injured outfielder. Moises is productive when he's on the field, but look at his career and try to find a season in which he didn't pull a hamstring and spend two months on the DL. You can't rely on him. I've made my point abundantly clear about what I think of Green and Delgado. The Green thing dates back to before he got here, but I'll admit I was willing to make a go of it with Delgado at the beginning of this year even though I always thought he strikes out to much and hits into too many double plays. I always thought of him as a "feast or famine" sort of guy, so this prolonged funk he has been in surprises even me. Obviously he has been unable to play his way out of this, so I'm convinced Willie should have sat him down for a week or so earlier in the year to get his head together. At this point he probably needs a change of scenery but we will have to live with him for now. I still think we should have made a move to get Teixera, even if it was simply to block the Braves. Valentin was a journeyman utility infielder who had the best year of his life last year, and at his age we should not have expected to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Giving him an extension instead of going after a real second baseman was a big mistake, (as was giving an extension to a roid-head pitcher who Omar knew was going to miss half the season BEFORE they signed him). I like the Castillo move so far (although his knee worries me a bit). He is the type of guy I was talking about as a professional hitter (always around 300 with better than average speed), not a "big bat" but a guy who puts the ball in play and can beat out an infield hit and stay out of double plays. This team relied on the long ball way to much last year and it masked their otherwise anemic hitting (they leave the population of China on base in every game it seems).

I'm not claiming to know all the answers, but I do know that I had no confidence in second base and the corner outfielders going into the offseason and nothing was done to make the situation any better. You say we have young talented outfielders, but the way this team was built they were going to have no opportunity to play (unless Omar signed Alou knowing that he's as fragile as a Faberge egg and would miss most of the year). If you want to count on your youth in the outfield than Alou and Green should have never been on the team. Their presence has only slowed the development of the young guys like Milledge. Honestly, I think the last good corner outfielder we had was Strawberry! Since him it's just been one band-aid player after another, slapped on at the last minute as if the position was an afterthought. Bringing in Griffey at this point in his career would be the same thing (talk about fragile, the guy can't play pattycake with his kid without breaking his hand).

As we saw last year with the Cardinals, a team that underachieved all season can turn it on and have a good run in the playoffs, so I'm not saying the Mets have no chance but they are extremely flawed offensively and it wouldn't shock me if they don't get out of the first round (assuming they make the playoffs which I'm fairly sure they will). It just seems that even going back to last year they put up huge numbers against bad teams, but when they face a good pitcher and need to manufacture a run they are unable to do it. If they score 14 runs one day and get shut out the next it still shows up in the stats that they average 7 runs a game and sportscasters talk about the "vaunted Mets offense". The lack of clutch hitting is what makes me so crazy.

OK I'd like to take issue with some of Jon's comments if I may :-)
First - just a little note that Omar was not replacing Steve Phillips but Jim Duquette. Big Difference. The Duke was the guy who traded Scott Kazmir - Omar wasn't. That is why omar is "overrated." And I have to disagree that he is "overrated" which is why i put it in quotes. Baseball GMs need to wear two hats - baseball guy and business guy. Omar does a great job of both. What - it was his fault that we didn't get Dice-K and Zito, which in turn was why in hindsight he didn't give Chadbrad a 3-year deal (which to me was the only glaring error in the offseason...well besides Schoeneweis but I just pretend he's not on the team :D )

Although I do agree with your assessment on what we could have done with Phillips, sending him to Vick's house. hee hee. That brought up a mental image.

The issue is I agree is the lackluster play and lack of discipline AND lack of killer instinct. the only guy playing with ANY heart on the team is david wright and I think that's because his agent was like - stop being such a media whore. I don't know this for fact, but last year when he was the Prince of NY, going to all kinds of media outlets and hooking with chicks, he believed his own hype. now he's a legit MVP candidate. in my eyes, Jose reyes as good as he is, can't touch DW.

And as much as we would like to think - no way Omar is trading for teixeira, no matter what we would believe. we have to understand, Carlos D is on this team. he is the first baseman. Sucks, nothing we can do about it. Greenie on the other hand, we should have gotten rid of him a LOOOOONG time ago.

And I take issue with the Oh Pea (Oliver Perez) trade. I feel that was one of omar's BEST moves. Oh pea can be a legit ace. Nady - good, but replaceable.

I will also say this - I truly believed that the Mets should have beaten the Cards last year. I mean, SLAYED 'Em. they ran out of gas. It happens. they played not to win, but to NOT LOSE. Big difference in attitude. When I hear people say, hey don't sweat it, we make it to the playoffs, they could do a run like the Cards. I say - um, I'm a lifelong Mets fan. THE METS NEVER EVER DO STUFF LIKE THAT!!!! IT'S ALWAYS THE TEAM BEATING THEM!!

Believe you me, I believe, I'm a Mets fan, sometimes we have to. But come on - let's get real here.

Omar Minaya may be overrated, but he is a good general manager.

Lots of GM's get overrated, by the way. Brian Sabean, anybody? Or, does anyone remember back when Syd Thrift was supposed to be a special GM? For that matter Walt Jockety, if that is how he spells it, pulled several good trades for the Cardinals, while emptying their system and not restocking.

The general manager's job is actually several jobs, and few can do all aspects of the job well. Omar is overrated because he hasn't been perfect; but he has been plenty good. He knows baseball, as Steve Phillips did not, and he has the guts to do what he believes is best, which Jim Duquette did not.

Oh, and 2006 was not Jose Valentin's best year. He had a pretty full career before we ever met him at Shea.

And I believe what is referred to as a professional hitter is usually an old guy who is dangerous at the plate but can't do much of anything else; Mike Easler, Jim Leyritz, Will Clark late in his career, Jack Clark in his latter years, latter-day Moises -- that sort of fellow. Rarely does a team get 450 at bats from the type. You don't want to face one of them with a game on the line. Getting the team to the point where a game is on the line, sometimes they don't do that part so well.

Just to clarify my point on Perez. I'm thrilled we have him, I just don't think Omar should get an excessive amount of credit for a guy who was a throw in player that he tried to dump immediately. The Nady/Hernandez deal as it should be known was a knee-jerk reaction to the Sanchez injury and as a result of it we ended up with Green on the team. Perez is a serendipitous outcome that Omar was not trying for. Again, he is a major upgrade over the previous GM (go ahead and split hairs over the interim GM'ship of Duquette if you will, fact is Omar replaced Philips regardless of who kept the seat warm). Omar's good, he's just not the infallible genius that some people make him out to be.

Hey, I must say I was pleased with this past weekends outcome. I was moving so I could not catch any of the games this Holiday weekend, nor could I make the game in Atlanta on Sunday which I had to sell my tickets for. I wore each of my different Mets jersey's as a sort of "negative forces kybosh" on the Braves. Well kiss my grits, they won all three! And just to show I was into it all the way, I wore my black Mets hat and jersey on Monday to salute the return of Pedro. Woooo Hooo a 10-4 win. Last time I wrote I was really bummed, the Philley series had wore on my last nerve. Today I can say I feel much better, the team looked great all weekend and played the way I had expected them to play against Philly. I believe it can translate on the field the rest of the season, again a nice roll off of 8-10 in row can really put them in the preverbial " Catbird Seat". So as a Mets man I am happy. I am in my new digs, my team has rolled off 4 in a row, lead is 5 1/2 games, and the cableman will install my cable Wednesday, so I can see my Mets finish this roll. Life sure does have a way of evening things out, Thank You God, thank you Mike, and thank you Mets, this labor day weekend has been alright!

Good luck with the new digs, L.J., and keep wearing those jerseys until the streak plays out.

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