By Dave Mills
In this day and age of grossly inflated salaries, intense media scrutiny and over-the-top expectations, it is not too difficult to get caught up in the downdraft of a couple of painful loses.
The talk radio pundits and even many (not all) in the blogging community fail to realize the extenuating circumstances that the Mets found themselves in upon arriving at Dodger Stadium.
An examination of fact from the 11 inning, 3-2 loss to the Blue reveals no less than five players playing out of position or brand new to the mix. Both Gary Sheffield and Angel Pagan, who manned LF, have hardly played 30 major league games in the OF since the beginning of the 2008 season. Jeremy Reed and Fernando Tatis have less than 20 combined major league games at 1B in their careers. Ramon Martinez, primarily a second sacker, had just flown cross-country only to be thrown into a major league game at SS.
What did any level-headed observer think was going to happen under the devastating circumstances of losing Carlos Delgado, perhaps forever, Alex Cora, for up to two months, and Jose Reyes, for the past five games (and counting)?
Did anyone in their right mind expect there would be no consequences from injuries to key players? Cora has done an outstandingly professional job wherever he was utilized during the past six weeks. He is there to understudy Reyes and Castillo in just such emergencies. But when the backup goes down, it is usually the death knell. Can Martinez really be expected to play perfect baseball after a transcontinental flight? His body clock was about midnight when he made his first error of the evening.
Jeremy Reed, after a couple of better-than-serviceable appearances at 1B was thrown into the fire in the last inning and rushed a pressure-packed throw wide to home. Reed is an outfielder who answered the call to the first sack.
Pagan and Beltran have not played a full game together in the OF in almost a year before last night.
But one overwhelming current factor that exists makes these rash of injuries more plausibly negative than they were before the mid- to late-1980s. Back when I was a kid, teams carried about 10 pitchers. A few carried as few as nine and even fewer carried 11. That meant there were 14-15 position players. Today, teams have roughly 13 position players. A few have only 12. And since most carry only two receivers, that means the backstop on the bench rarely makes an appearance when not catching. For all intents and purposes, the Mets have about 12 position players available at the beginning of any given game. With Reyes on the bench and not really available, it effectively left the Mets with only three players available off the bench.Talk about being ill-prepared?
As long as starters fail to pitch deep into the game, this situation will become more and more commonplace. Don't be surprised if the Mets finish the year with 13 hurlers and 12 position players.
MISSING IN ACTION (as of 5/19)
Billy Wagner (37)
Oliver Perez (28)
Carlos Delgado (36)
Alex Cora (33)
Brian Schneider (32)
What happened to Ryan Church at 3B is somewhat less understandable than all the errors, but something is radically amiss in Metsville when the manager and best player both fail to come to his defense and say they have never seen anything like that before. What?
Clearly, there is a problem between Church and Manuel. One that is likely to move Church to a new address. But Church was hustling and certainly did not intend to miss the bag. A manager must defend his players and take negative issues up with them privately. Joe Torre is a master when it comes to defending and protecting his players. Jerry may have a method, but it is madness to call your player out to the media.
MISSING THE POINT
There were a few bright spots to take away from the past couple of contests.
Mets pitching was very good, especially the bullpen. Mike Pelfrey, for all his less-than-fancy footwork, pitched effectively and gave up only six hits and two earned runs. Ken Takahashi gave up one hit and he and Sean Green gave up no runs in two innings. In the Dodger Stadium opener, Tim Redding made a stellar debut, pitching six full and only yielding two runs on two hits. A five-man bullpen contingent pitched 4-1/3 and gave up only three hits and no earned runs. Brian Stokes, who was running it up to the dish as high as 97-mph, didn't deserve the loss.
Another bright spot was the offensive production of Angel Pagan, who has a nice stroke and tremendous speed. You can't go wrong with Pagan as a platoon or 4th outfielder. The question beckons: Can he do an adequate job defensively?
David Wright continues his torrid May and Ryan Church did go two for two before his misstep. Eight of the Mets 11 hits came from Pagan, Wright and Church.
MISSING THE BROADCAST
Tonight (Tuesday) is one of those weird nights here in Hawaii when the Dodgers are on over-the-air TV (KCAL9 in LA). Because Hawaii is considered Dodger territory, out-of-area Dodger games are blacked out. Therefore, on DirecTV MLB package ($139 annually), SNY is black tonight. I guess I should subscribe to MLB Premium (now $99 for the season). Not a bad deal to listen to Howie and Wayne on WFAN via MLB Audio ($14.95 annually). I love options, but subscribing to all three was not what I had in mind.
Mike's looking after his ill mom. We'll have another post at the conclusion of the Dodger series.