armchairquarterblog

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on October 4, 2011 at 7:17 pm

On the last day of the baseball season, New York Met shortstop Jose Reyes excused himself from duty after laying down a bunt single in his first at bat. Not wanting to jeopardize his lead over Ryan Braun for the best batting average in the National League, he sat and watched the final eight innings. Meanwhile, Braun went hitless in four trips to lose the title by .005. One has to wonder if Reyes’s agent suggested the move to make the prized infielder more marketable in the off-season.

The bar for such occasions was set high by Ted Williams, who owns the batting average record of .406 in 1941. Before the final two games of the season, he was hitting .39955. Rounded, that’s a .400 average he could have claimed while sitting out the doubleheader. But Williams played both games, saying he wouldn’t have deserved the mark had he not played. Williams went 6-for-8 in the twin bill to finish at 406.

In Reyes’s case, he weaseled out of three at bats. Shameless, but what’s new with the Mets? From ownership to management, to the medical staff, it’s been a dysfunctional organization under owner Fred Wilpon.

Two years ago, the Wilpon family was so awed with Jackie Robinson, it dedicated Citi Field’s rotunda to No. 42. Meanwhile, Met fans completed the tour without finding a trace of the club founder Bill Shea, as well as owner Joan Payson, general manager George Weiss and field manager Casey Stengel.

Where were the placards of Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Gary Carter? Seaver and Carter are enshrined in Cooperstown but were hard to locate at Citi Field. Wilpon grew up a Dodger fan and still is. Not until a fan backlash and media scrutiny were murals of Gooden and company hastily painted on Citi’s blank walls.

The Wilpons even tanked on the field dimensions at the Mets’ new stadium. The Mo Zone generates ad revenue but few home runs. David Wright is the prime example of a hitter suffering due to this cut-out in right field. Many a broadcaster has sighed, “That would have been a homer in any other park.” Balls blasted 415 feet fall into the right fielder’s glove or bounce against the screen for a long double.

Met General Manager Sandy Alderson needed a year-long study to remedy the obvious – move the right-field fence in or home plate out. And the Pikes Peak wall in left needs to be shorter than 16 feet. Fans want home runs and players love to hit ’em. They juice up a dull and slow game during hot summers.

The season began with hopes of ace Johan Santana returning in August. But his arm was never ready. The man won two Cy Youngs with Minnesota but tops off at 12, 13 victories in New York. And at what price?

Wright may not be a superstar but he’s an All-Star. And he regularly hit 30 HRs a year before moving to Citi, where batters need to swing from the pitcher’s mound to clear the fence. Still, why did Wilpon lash out at the second-best player on the team and the most loyal member of his team?

Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets’ closer, was more noted for punching out his father in law than shutting down hitters. Overpaid and over-hyped, he was traded to Milwaukee in mid-season. Meanwhile, the closer in the Bronx was getting accolades from the White House for saving his 600th game.

“Slugger” Jason Bay was signed for his power stroke after averaging 33 HRs and 110 RBI in two season prior to his coming to Flushing. But with the Mets, he’s averaged 9 HRs and 52 RBIs. The left fielder hit everywhere he’s played except in New York. The dead bat in the lineup comes at a $16M-a-year cost. During the last week of the season, Bay missed two games with the sniffles. The same day, Tony Romo of the Cowboys played an entire game with a broken rib.

And what’s it with the Mets’ medical staff? It can’t diagnose an ailment, be it Reyes’s hamstrings, Ryan Church’s concussion or knee of Carlos Beltran? The slugging right fielder made his own decision for surgery and missed half a season in 2010. Where was the communication? Disenchanted with having to pay him $18M for another season, the Mets sent him to San Francisco. In seven years with the Mets, Beltran appeared in zero World Series.

Now, the Mets cuddle up at the hot stove with a suspect ace, an undependable pitching staff, a meek-hitting clean-up man and a question mark at shortstop. Ike Davis returns to first base after missing half a season with an injured foot. Even that took months to decipher he didn’t need surgery. At least for now. Daniel Murphy hits .300 but where does the team hide his glove? Is Lucas Duda the best the team can do in right field? Does the team think it’ll win with the combination of Josh Thole and Ronny Paulino at catcher? Will Chris Young and Jerry Meija return from season-ending injuries? Will Angel Pagan ever hit .300 again?

For 2012, the Marlins have a new manager and new stadium. Washington has Stephen Strasburg for an entire season with Bryce Harper ready for MLB duty. MVP candidate Prince Fielder could be the Nats’ next first baseman. Philadelphia, favored to win the World Series, will again win 100 games. Atlanta will again threaten to win the Wild Card.

But the Mets seem headed for the cellar. On the field or off the field, year after year, the team nets newspaper headlines for all the wrong reasons.

  1. Great story and reporting. What a mess in NY in Queens. What a shame. A once proud organization seems to have problems up and down the line up. As a Yankees fan, I have more positives to look forward to than the average Mets fan. For a Mets fan, items to look forward to are reduced salaries, contracts ending, A laundry list of “has beens” or players on the downside of thier careers or who could be named the “Ed Whitsons or the American Idol Carl Pavano” or players who played well elsewhere but fell apart in NY.

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