Monday, June 07, 2004

Mets Make It Through the NL East Gauntlet 

The Mets 5 to 2 victory yesterday against the Marlins capped off a 12 game NL East gauntlet in which the team played 7 games against the Marlins and 5 against the Phillies. Many folks thought these 12 games, in which the Mets squared off against the best the division has to offer, would define the Mets season. Are the Mets buyers or sellers? Should the Mets be shopping veterans or should the team be trolling the trade market hoping to pick up an arm and/or bat that will help them contend for a playoff berth? Well, the Mets finished the 12 games virtually unscathed with an even 6 and 6 record. That's right folks, the Mets dove into the murky waters filled with the best of the NL East and resurfaced clutching their .500 record (28 and 28) and still only 3.5 games out of first place. This is not the 2002 or 2003 Mets. Nope. These guys have heart and are exciting to watch. But just because this team is better than Mets teams of the past two years and show up to play, does that mean this team is actually any good?

The Mets 28 and 28 record is made up of a few components. The Mets are an above .500 team when playing their division rivals in the NL East. We're 3 and 3 against the Braves, 4 and 1 against the Phillies, 4 and 3 against the Expos and 2 and 5 against the Marlins, making up a 13 and 12 NL East record. The only team the Mets have a losing record against in the division is the Marlins and let's look past the teal unis and remember that these are the reigning World Series champs. Despite only picking up 2 wins against the Fish, the Mets have actually played them tuff. In fact, of the 7 games played, 4 games were decided by a margin of 2 runs or less and the Mets have only been outscored 25 runs to 28. The Mets can hang with these guys.

Some argue the Mets decent record is deceiving because they only beat "bad" teams while getting worked by the better competition. This argument has some merit but is ultimately wrong. The Mets are 15 and 11 against teams currently at or below the .500 mark. The Mets shouldn't be criticized for this. To the contrary, good teams are supposed to feast on the bad ones. The Mets being 4 games above .500 against mediocre or sub par teams shows that they are a step above those teams. True, the Mets are a sub .500 team (13 and 17) when playing winning teams:

2 and 5 vs. Marlins
4 and 1 vs. Phillies
0 and 3 vs. Cubs
2 and 1 vs. Dodgers
1 and 2 vs. Padres
1 and 2 vs. Brewers
2 and 1 vs. Astros
1 and 2 vs. Cardinals

But looking at these games closer reveals quite a few positives. First, and this might not be the strongest hook to hang your Mets cap on, the Mets have only been swept once in a series against a winning team. This was the late April road series against the Cubs where the Mets ran up against Greg Maddux, Kerry Wood and Matt Clement. Those three could shut down just about any team in baseball in any given series. More significant than the simple fact that, for the most part, the Mets have avoided being swept by good teams is that the Mets are, in Art Howe's words, "battling." Of the 30 games against winning teams over half of them have been decided by 2 runs or less. Most shockingly, however, is that in these 30 games against the best teams thrown in their path so far, the Mets have allowed 119 runs but have also scored 119 runs in those games! In other words, the Mets are one or two Art Howe bone headed managerial moves away from scoring more runs than they have given up against the best teams on their schedule. That's nothing to scoff at.

These numbers, especially the Mets runs scored versus runs allowed against winning teams, reveals that the Mets are more than some bottom feeding mediocre team destined to slip away into the abyss. This is a team that is beating the teams they should be beating, coming away with wins against the division, and gutting it out against the best teams in the league. The Mets are right on the cusp of getting over the hump and pressing the issue in the NL East. Everyone seems to think the Mets need to make a big, blockbuster trade for a Freddy Garcia, Kris Benson (whose wife is hot!), Carlos Beltran-type player to do this. I'm not convinced that is necessary, but since the team has held up it's side of the bargain and produced, I would not be adverse to the right trade. Below is a quick list of things, aside from the ordinary "trade the world for 1/2 year rental player X," that might provide a spark:

---Fire Art Howe (see my gory details and The Raindrop's proof of Howe's idiocy) and reinsert Bobby Valentine ASAP. I don't care how it's done. Buy out his contract; bribe him; send commandos into Japan to abduct him - whatever. Just send Howe packing and get Valentine back. Okay, I'm only half serious about a Valentine return to Shea this year (just because it's unrealistic), but I'm 100% serious about firing Howe. I don't know who could replace him: Rick Peterson? Don Baylor? John Stearns? Howard Stern? Howard Johnson? Willy Wonka? Wally Backman? Carrot Top? Who cares.

---Put Mike Cameron on the DL now, see what can be done about his finger, and call up Jeff Duncan. The Mets can't survive much longer with Cammy stinkin' up the joint in the batter's box like he has been. Duncan provides solid center field defense, has speed and will hit better than Cameron's current line of .202/.306/.376. But the real impetus behind this move is to get Cameron healthy and ready to go for the second half of the season.

---Take all pressure off Jose Reyes (his psyche, hammy, and back) by not bringing him back, even if he's "healthy," until after the All Star break.

---Send both David Wright and Matt Peterson south to Norfolk now, add them both to the 40 man roster, and if they don't fall on their faces against the stiffer AAA competition, be ready to bring them up for a post All Star break Shea debut.

---Release David Weathers and call up Yusmeiro Petit. Yeah yeah yeah I know, the kid's only 19 and in single A ball. So what. We saw last week that the Phillies had the cajones to bring up Elizardo Ramirez, a 19 year old kid straight from A ball. As has been well documented in some of the other Mets blogs, Petit is flat out filthy. How filthy you ask? Try 77 Ks and only 19 walks in 59 innings! Petit and Orber Moreno can form a nasty Venezualan combo. The trick is to get Howe to actually use them. Oh, wait, he'll be fired by now and I'm sure Carrot Top will use Moreno and Petit.

Let's hear your suggestions of what the Mets can do, in-house, to make this team better. Any "Tony from Staten Island" can call up Fat Boy and Fruitloops on WFAN with the obligatory, "The Mets need to trade Jose Reyes for Alfonso Soriano" suggestion, but let's get creative. And "creative" does not mean "realistic," as my suggestions show.
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