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Playing With a Purpose

Mike SteffanosMonday, August 20, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

I've been hard on this team at times this season. Although I certainly took the injuries into account when judging their performance, there were just too many stretches of games where the Mets played sloppy and were outworked by their opposition. Frankly, I thought this club would be motivated by their tough end to last season's championship hopes, yet there seemed to be scant evidence of that in their play. Even when things were going very well in the first two months of the season something just didn't seem quite right.

There are things you can't control in the course of a season. Injuries, of course, are one of them, and the Mets have endured their share of those. I don't have much doubt that they would have a better record if Alou didn't miss 2 months of the season, and Endy Chavez and a whole Jose Valentin would have certainly helped, too. Sometimes you run into a team that is just incredibly hot, and sometimes luck is not on your side. Much of that has happened to our Metropolitans this season. On top of everything else, they've endured drop-offs in production from key lineup guys like Beltran, Delgado and Lo Duca. David Wright's bat took the first month of the season off. Shawn Green's resurrection didn't last. The bullpen -- such a strength last season -- has been up and down.

Still, even the level-headed media members like Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Ed Coleman started questioning the desire of this team, and to me that question was absolutely valid. Even when the Mets would put a stretch of solid baseball together they had difficulty maintaining it. After opening August with the 4-2 road trip against the Brewers and Cubs, they lost 2 of 3 to the Bravos and were underwhelming in dropping the first 2 of the Marlins series. Their 2-4 homestand offset their nice road trip and left us wondering which Mets team would show up in Pittsburgh and Washington.

Despite an ugly defeat in the last game of the Pirates series, the Mets played with a sense of resolve on this road trip instead of playing down to the level of their competition. The payoff was a 5-1 swing that elevated their record to 17 games over .500 for the first time this season, gaining some momentum heading into what is easily the toughest two weeks of their remaining schedule. They certainly have their work cut out for them, starting with facing Young and Peavey in the first two games of the Padres series. As tough as these upcoming games will be, I sure feel a lot better about the team's chances than I did a week ago. They still can't control injuries, bad luck or struggling bats, but as long as they bring the effort, as a fan I am satisfied.

Mets 6 - Nationals 2
Played Friday, August 17, 2007

Glavine has bounced back from that terrible start in LA to string together 5 solid starts in a row. He never allowed the Nationals to get the feeling they were really in this game after being staked to an early lead, and his 116-pitch, 7 inning performance set the bullpen up for the rest of the series.

Tom Glavine (Last 5 Starts)
Season (26 Games)157.175721627452184.121.3616-10

View Tom Glavine's Full Season Stats

Jorge Sosa endured one of the few hiccups since being made a reliever, but Pedro Feliciano was more than up to the task of picking him up. I honestly can't remember seeing a more spectacular double play turn in 38 years of watching this game than the one Reyes and Castillo turned on Zimmerman. It's almost startling to see how fast Reyes and Castillo have meshed as a tandem.

Box Score

Mets 7 - Nationals 4
Played Saturday, August 18, 2007

Although it would have been nice to see a dominating performance from Oliver Perez, it was encouraging to see him overcome his struggles enough to earn a win. Without his best fastball and the real sharp-breaking slider once again, Perez really had to work hard for the win. Provided his problems are mechanical and not physical, I guess we could look at his struggles over his last 5 starts as a character-builder. The problem is we need to more dominant Ollie back for this tough stretch of games coming up.

Oliver Perez (Last 5 Starts)
Season (22 Games)135.2675311813154183.521.2713-9

View Oliver Perez' Full Season Stats

Ugly injury for Damion Easley on the severely sprained ankle. I've had that kind of severe sprain myself, and to me there is no doubt he will not play again this season. He's a class act, and it's a shame that he will not get the chance to make his first career playoff appearance. Nice job by the Mets, however, in (apparently) plugging the hole for a right-handed bench bat with Jeff Conine.

Box Score

Mets 8 - Nationals 2
Played Sunday, August 19, 2007

Not only did the Mets manage to pull of the sweep in Washington, but they even managed to reward El Duque's strong performance with his eighth win of the season. Sure, they made him sweat it out until they busted a tie game with a 4-run eighth, but they came through in the end. Notice the column on the right in the chart below:

Orlando Hernandez (Last 8 Starts)
Season (21 Games)13148459011353163.091.0915-6

The Mets have won El Duque's last 8 starts, even though he only was credited with 4 of those wins. His last 3 starts were no-decisions. It was good to see his happiness on the bench when the Mets scored those runs last night.

View Orlando Hernandez' Full Season Stats

Box Score

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 (3)

I'm surprised no one else has made note of it, but has anyone noticed how Reyes has been walking, hitting and stealing bases again? Pretty much during the entire swoon Reyes has been flat, and so the team was too. More proof, in my eyes, that as Reyes goes, so go the Mets!

Maybe as a Team they were just Coasting in 1ST these last 2 weeks Mike ? It's a long season , and sometimes ML players lose their motivation from time to time . Gee, isn't the Manager the one whos supposed to put a stop to that ? Hmm.......

Gene - While I agree that Reyes is the catalyst of this team, there were times he was playing well and the team wasn't during June and July. I think the reasons for the 2 sub-.500 months were a combination of a lot of things, including Jose trying to do a little too much at times.
Mark - Yes, the season is long and ups and downs are to be expected. Going 31-34 from June 1 through mid-August seems to me more of a problem than coasting for 2 weeks, however. As said above, it was a combination of a lot of things that made them that bad for 40% of the season. Sure, Willie didn't push the right buttons, but the players also took some things for granted. Their offensive approach was terrible during much of this stretch -- even considering the injuries. The signs are there lately that they're ready to put it into gear, and I'm happy about that.

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