As the Mets prepare for what looks like a rough seven game road trip — starting tonight with the first of three games against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers and ending with three against the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies over the Fourth of July weekend — it’s time to face up to some sobering facts:
First off, it wasn’t merely the absence of Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran that caused the big belly flop against the Yankees. It’s true that the Mets right now are ridiculously punchless — just 9 hits and 3 runs against the Yanks in 3 games at Citifield, and only 15 hits and 3 runs over the last four games against them, including the rubber game of the first series at Yankee Stadium on June 14.
The truth is that there isn’t any other area of the game in which the Mets are clicking.
The Yankees outscored them 18-3 at Citifield, and 44-17 overall in the six games. Worse, the Mets simply gave away one game when Luis Castillo dropped a pop-up in the first game at Yankee Stadium, and the Mets practically handed the Yankees a second free win this past Friday when 3 second inning errors gave the Yankees an insurmountable 4-0 lead. Leave everything else the same, take away those four errors, and the Mets, despite the Yankees seeming domination, could easily have escaped with a 3-3 split. (Which, incidentally, might have left them just half a game behind Philadelphia in the NL East.)
Perhaps worst of all, Fernando Rodriguez and Jerry Manuel committed gaffs last night that will be remembered in the Mets Hall of Shame for some time. The sight of Alex Rodriguez and other Yankees whooping it up as Mariano Rivera worked a 7-pitch walk for his first major league RBI has got to be the most galling moment for Mets fans this year. And the most baffling decision by a Mets manager in recent memory preceded Rivera’s at-bat when, for reasons still unknown, Manuel elected to give Derek Jeter a hittable pitch instead of simply walking him to get to Rivera, much to the puzzled amusement of announcers Joe Morgan and Jon Miller. (And, for that matter, Jeter himself, who, when he finally reached first base, stood there laughing and shaking his head, apparently trying to figure out why the Mets would choose to pitch to him with two outs instead of Mo.)
In the wake of the debacle against the Yankees comes the inevitable “Get us some help” talk from the Mets msnager. “I think that’s a no-brainer,” said Manuel after yesterday’s loss, talking about making a deal for a hitter. But what deal, and for who? As John Harper noted in today’s Daily News, “The problem is the Mets have so few desirable prospects at the upper levels of their farm system that [GM Omar] Minaya is dealing from a position of weakness in trying to make any kind of trade…Of course, he has only himself to blame for that, as the lack of prospects developed during Minaya’s five-year regime with the Mets is a glaring failure.”
Mets fans waiting for the cavalry to arrive won’t be hearing any trumpets in the near future: the Mets’ top two minor league teams, Triple-A Buffalo and Double-A Binghamton, are a combined 39 games under .500.
How desperate are the Mets right now? Let’s put it this way — a bad road trip, particularly a flop against the Phillies this coming weekend, could signal if not the end, at least the beginning of the end for both Manuel and Minaya.