Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Talking us off the ledge already? Please.

Before I launch into my screed, take a moment to enjoy the accompanying video, which harkens to better times (hat tip to Jake Levich).

Remember that John Maine? The guy who struck out 14 Marlins on the second-to-last day of the 2007 season to push the Mets into a first-place tie? Who as a throw-in in the Benson-Julio deal looked like one of Omar Minaya's biggest steals? Big-game pitcher? That John Maine?

The problem is, we do, and coming off a shoulder injury, Maine has not looked like himself in his two starts this season, and that has helped the Mets get off to a 2-5 start that has the media sharpening their knives and fans stepping out onto the nearest ledge. It got so bad in Tuesday night's blowout loss to the Rockies (Maine: 3 innings, 7 hits, 3 walks, 8 runs) that Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez took calls from the viewers and SNY morphed into WFAN.

Guys, you're better than that.

I expect the media to salivate over situations like this, but they have taken it to another level with the Mets. Jerry Manuel has to do something! Other than start Angel Pagan every day in center, what would you have him do? He can't pitch.

The negativity is remarkable, and the Mets get it coming and going. The starting pitching is terrible. The sample size? Seven games. So we're not going to give them any time to get it together? No one is allowed a slow start, like Maine, coming off an injury? Not even a month? Insane.

Oh, but when you mention how well the bullpen is doing, then it's a miniscule sample size, and don't worry, give them time, they'll fail eventually.

So are we not giving them any time, or are we?

We heard so much about how the Mets NEEDED to get off to a strong start. Why? To erase the demons from seasons past? I blame Manuel for feeding into this nonsense when he agreed they needed to come out fast. Now they haven't, and the buzzards are circling. Last I checked, you don't carry losses over from season to season. Everyone starts 0-0.

The Mets are 2-5. How terrible! Had Rod Barajas's sinking liner sunk 6 more inches Saturday, maybe the Mets win that game and they're 3-4 with one series win. No matter, you'd still hear the complaining about how awful Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis are at first base.

That's the other thing -- no one can accept that the Mets had injuries to start the season. OH NO, IT'S HAPPENING AGAIN! Had they been at full strength and 2-5, then maybe there would be some small cause for alarm. But again, it's still just seven games.

The reality is that Carlos Beltran is out til mid- or late May, as is Daniel Murphy. Jose Reyes missed the first four games. That's going to have an effect. Deal with it.

You have people calling for Ike Davis. Yes, he's hitting well at AAA -- for a week. He'll be here eventually. I hate Mike Jacobs as much as the next guy, and think Chris Carter deserved the shot to play instead, but it is what it is.

Then you have Mike Francesa, to whom I avoid listening as much as possible. But today, going to lunch, I turned on the FAN in time to hear how Luis Castillo is the problem, that he is "unhappy" and has to go. In one breath, Francesa says he "is not knocking" Castillo, and in the next he implies that his calf injury is one of many false injuries that are signs that wants out. You're accusing him of jaking it, and Castillo has a reputation of being very competitive. I can't think of a more serious knock than that.

In fact, Francesa said the whole right side should go, including Jacobs, Tatis and Murphy, who hasn't even played yet.

Francesa's antipathy to Murphy is well-documented. I don't know what Murphy did to Mike -- raped his dog or killed his sister or took the last cruller at Dunkin' Donuts -- but he HATES Murphy. The guy, at 24, in his first full season above AA (not AAA), hit 12 homers, drove in 63 runs, hit .266 and had 38 doubles. He's a gap hitter in a gap-hitter's park. But Francesa finds it completely unreasonable that (a) Murphy's numbers (and defense, which wasn't bad) might actually improve with experience and (b) the Mets could win with a first baseman who only hits between 15-20 homers. Despite the fact that Murphy -- who is only a placeholder for Davis anyway -- would be expected to be a complementary player behind the true run-producers in Reyes, Wright, Bay, Beltran and Francoeur. Whatever.

But what really gets me mad is not the media or the radio hosts, but my fellow fans. So many of them have bought into the sad-sack, woe-is-us, here-we-go-again, Omar-sucks, Jerry-must-go, why-are-we-still-hurt mentality that I am reacting to them as if they were (gulp) Yankees fans.

They might as well be. I was at last Thursday's loss to the Marlins and the two guys sitting behind me were your typical, cynical, overly sarcastic Mets fans, who had something bad to say about just about everyone and everything, and felt the need to say it loud enough so that everyone around could hear just how witty they were. It was as if they were pretending they were hosting their own talk show.

I wanted to tell them to leave if it was that bad. Why are you here? Go to the Bronx. Better yet, become a Cubs fan, or a Pirates fan, or a Royals fan, and let me know how that works out for you.

There are 155 games left in the season. Yes, there are holes while Beltran and Murphy are out, but the problems so far have been starting pitching and a slow start hitting. There's plenty of time to turn things around. It is only April 14.

Seven games, people. Relax. Please.


  1. I rely on you to keep me level-headed. But I'm concerned that this time it's not taking. After the last three seasons, I can't cut the front office any slack. Omar's approach to the starting rotation seems to be a fervent belief that Maine and Perez would return to '07 form as if the intervening years hadn't happened.

    What did you think of Gary's comment that the lack of competition for roster spots hurt an already weak rotation?

  2. It was more 'hope' than 'belief,' I think, coupled with the fact that the free agent pitching market, once Lackey (who has his own injury history) went to Boston, was less than stellar. That said, they did need more competition and should have signed someone -- Piniero was my favorite of the bunch, and there was no reason at all not to roll the dice on Chien-Ming Wang. He wouldn't have provided any actual spring training competition, as he's been hurt, but it would have provided the Mets with someone in their back pocket who could loom over these guys.

    I can't put faith in Perez, but I'm not ready to bury Maine just yet. Again, it's very, very early and I hate the sense of panic.