The New York Mets had a forgettable 2010. Not since the 2006 Mets have fans felt good about the team at season’s end, and even that year ended in heartbreak. The key difference in ’06, of course, was that there was hope.
The organization continues to preach that it won’t accept mediocrity, but actions speak louder than words. Ownership needs to commit to this winning culture it keeps talking about. It needs a plan. The Yankees have a plan, the Red Sox have one, the Rays have one, and that’s just the American League East. The Mets need not model themselves after any other team, but they sure better come up with a model and stick to it.
It was not all bad for this year’s team, however. In order from best to not quite as awesome, the five good things that came out of this disappointing season:
1. Angel Pagan
Pagan was this season’s most valuable Met if you like the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stat. Many everyday observers, even those who don’t subscribe to advanced metrics, would say the same. David Wright is the only other Met you could make an argument for, but I think Pagan gets the edge because of his defense and perhaps because less was expected of him.
With Carlos Beltran missing the entire first half, Pagan was relied upon to fill the void. Through September 28, Pagan had appeared in 145 of New York’s 156 games, nearly all as a starter. He played mostly in center field, but when Beltran returned he moved to either of the corners, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense no matter where he was positioned.
|He probably caught this. (Credit: eviltomthai)|
Pagan hit in the first or second spot in the batting order the majority of the season but also hit third and sixth at times. When Jose Reyes was injured at various points, Pagan was counted on to jump start the offense. He is hitting .289 with 11 home runs, 69 RBI, and a .341 OBP.
The fact that Gary Matthews Jr., not Pagan, was the Opening Day center fielder is Exhibit A in the case against Jerry Manuel managing this team in 2011.
2. R.A. Dickey
The pitching of Robert Allen Dickey was nothing short of unbelievable this season. I say that because hardly anyone could believe it. Dickey was 6-0 in his first seven starts with the Mets but fans, media, and anyone else paying attention called it a mirage. They waited for him to fall apart. Except he never did.
Like the rest of the Mets staff this season, Dickey didn’t get much run support, so while he wasn’t piling up the wins he did carry a 2.32 ERA (through 14 starts) into August. I’ll admit, I didn’t believe it was real. His career stats screamed “Triple-A stud,” someone whose knuckleball clearly fooled minor leaguers but was futile against the big boys. But when Dickey pitched a complete game one-hit shutout against the Phillies on August 13, everyone took notice.
He has struggled a bit in September, but his ERA still has him in the top-10 in the league, ahead of Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Carpenter, Tim Linecum, and teammate Johan Santana. The terrifying look on his face when he releases a pitch, his 12 hits and five RBI in 50 at-bats, and his eloquent post-game quotes are a few of the things I’ll pleasantly remember from this disappointing season.
3. The Kids
Whether it was done out of necessity or with an eye towards the future is debatable, but one thing is certain: The 2010 Mets season was a bonafide youth movement. Jon Niese (23 years old) will make 30 starts this year. Ike Davis took over first base in late April and has started there ever since. Baby-faced middle infielder Ruben Tejada (21) has appeared in 71 games. Left-handed hitting Josh Thole (23) became the everyday catcher in July. Pitchers Jennry Mejia (20) and Dillon Gee (24) and outfielder Lucas Duda (24) have also seen action with the big league club.
I remember watching the first game that featured Niese pitching to Thole with Davis, Tejada, Wright, and Reyes behind him in the infield—an entire infield of homegrown players. It was refreshing to see. Davis has gone through slumps (but has 18 homers). Tejada has hovered around the Mendoza Line but has shown promise of late, hitting nearly .300 in September. Niese has struggled recently (his ERA has risen to 3.95 and he sports a 1.41 WHIP), but generally speaking the results have been very encouraging.
4. Mike Pelfrey
A 3.75 ERA and 1.40 WHIP are nothing to celebrate, but Pelfrey was a legitimate ace in the first half. He was 9-1 with a 2.39 ERA at one point, but pitched to a 10 ERA in July. He has turned it around down the stretch and has won 15 games, the most of his career.
After the great start, many thought Big Pelf had taken the next step towards becoming a stud. The poor stretch was reminiscent of old Pelfrey, as his body language was terrible and he seemed clueless on the mound. But I’ve been impressed with his resiliency in 2010 and think 2011 will be a true breakout season for the Mets’ 2005 first round draft pick.
5. The Winning Streaks
If you were being honest with yourself, it was clear from Opening Day that this year’s Mets team was a .500 club. That opinion, again, if you were being honest with yourself, should not have changed at any point this season. But it was hard not to get caught up in the two eight-game winning streaks.
The Mets closed out April by winning eight in a row against the Cubs, Braves, and Dodgers, all at home (if the Mets could play every game at Citi Field, they’d be a playoff team). Sweeping Atlanta and taking both games of a double header against LA was exciting.
The next big streak came in mid-June. The Mets took the rubber game against San Diego at home, then travelled to Baltimore and Cleveland and swept both lowly American League clubs. Their eighth consecutive victory came via a shutout at Yankee Stadium, finishing a stretch in which the Mets won 12 of 13.
Meaningful July games, that’s all you can ask for, right?
And now for the five bad things that happened during the 2010 season. Yes, this started as a much longer list and had to be cut considerably. Once again, starting with the really bad and moving to the regular bad:
1. Oliver Perez
I can’t remember which, but one Mets blog I have visited has a countdown clock to when Perez’s contract expires. Sadly, that doesn’t sum up why Perez is No. 1 on this list, because that clock was in place last season. It has only gotten worse.
Despite beginning the season as part of the starting rotation, he only lasted seven starts. Unable to retire hitters—in short, those that didn’t walk got hits—the Mets were essentially forced to remove Perez from the rotation. Refusing a trip to the minor leagues, Perez has rotted away in the bullpen ever since. He has made five appearances since May and has not pitched since September 6 despite the Mets being long out of the playoff race.
The worst part? Perez is still on the books for next season, when he’ll make another $12 million.
2. Luis Castillo
Castillo is to the lineup what Perez is to the pitching staff: a useless financial drain. Castillo only makes half as much, but I think it’s fair to say that $6 million is a tad much for a second baseman with no range or hitting ability.
Castillo turned it on last year and actually finished with a batting average over .300, but has regressed to his 2008 production levels this season, batting .234. Somehow he still draws a decent amount of walks despite slugging .266.
Whoever the Mets’ General Manager is this offseason will have his work cut out for him as he tries to find takers for Castillo and/or Perez.
3. Francisco Rodriguez
I recall when the Mets signed K-Rod (I don’t even like typing that anymore; he has lost the right to have a complimentary nickname), my older brother said how non-Mets fans would hate the Mets even more. His thinking was that people already disliked the celebratory antics displayed by Reyes, and now we were bringing in the biggest showboat on the mound.
What my brother didn’t figure was that the fans who would hate Rodriguez the most would be Mets fans. But after an embarrassing 2010, Rodriguez is right up there with Perez and Castillo, and it doesn’t even have much to do with his on-field performance.
Rodriguez pitched to a 2.20 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, and while he blew the save in New York’s epic 20-inning game with the Cardinals, the Mets eventually won that game. Only twice did the Mets lose a game that Rodriguez blew, none more crushing than his July 3 collapse in Washington.
But again, it was not Rodriguez’s pitching that made him a hated man in his own city. The closer was arrested following an August 11 game for an altercation with his father-in-law, throwing a punch that led to season-ending surgery. He appeared in court earlier this month for violating an order of protection by sending dozens of text messages to his estranged girlfriend.
The Mets suspended Rodriguez without pay. It is unclear how the organization will proceed this offseason. They could try to void the remainder of his lucrative deal or explore a trade. Either way, Rodriguez has been an embarrassment to the organization this season.
4. Carlos Beltran’s Surgery
I was in Ann Arbor in January and thought it was a joke when my friend John texted me to say that Beltran had undergone knee surgery. This sparked a public feud that included the Mets, Beltran, Scott Boras, and several doctors over whether Beltran had been given the green light for the surgery.
Either way, delaying the surgery until 2010 meant Beltran would miss the entire first half. He has not been the same player this season, batting .255 and looking like one of the worst center fielders in baseball. Veteran Torii Hunter made the move to right field this season; will Beltran be willing to do the same in 2011?
5. Johan Santana’s Surgery
This was Santana’s third season with the Mets and the third one that ended with a surgery. In 2008, he pitched on a severely injured left knee in an attempt to carry the Mets into the postseason. He had surgery as soon as the season ended. His 2009 campaign was cut short in late August because of surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow.
This season’s injury was perhaps the most troubling, as this time it was his shoulder that required surgery. He last pitched on September 2. The numbers have been stellar all three seasons (2.85 ERA over that span), but you have to wonder whether the Mets will get a full return on their six-year, $137.5 million investment. Will Santana hold up for three more seasons? Mets fans and management can only hope.
Consider that I didn’t include Jason Bay (.259 BA, six home runs before being shut down in late July due to a concussion) on this list, or directly mention Omar Minaya, Manuel, or the Wilpons and you’ll get a feel for how bad this season really was.
The worst part is that while the bright spots return next season, so do the headaches. How Beltran and Santana recover from their surgeries will be critical, as will whether the Mets can find a trade partner for Perez or Castillo. My feeling is that come mid-October, someone other than Minaya and Manuel will be making these decisions.