And so the Mets season has come to an end, sooner than expected, but somehow it was a long ways coming. Congratulations to the Phillies, they certainly outplayed the Mets and deserve the NL East title for what it’s worth. The season certainly ended poorly, but there were many hints along the way that the Mets could come to this, and it was surprising they could hold on to first place as long as they did.
“Historic collapse” or not, as a Mets fan you have to keep perspective. The franchise with a history of futility has only 7 playoff appearance and 5 division titles in 46 years of play. The team has only finished over .500 22 times and completed 17 seasons with fewer than 70 wins. In 13 different seasons, the Mets finished in last place. While an 88 win, 2nd place season ain’t that great, it’s certainly not as bad as it could be, and in many ways right where this team belongs.
I find myself somewhat more peeved with my fellow Mets fans who turned against the team in the last month (although I do like the take in Dustinland). From the cascade of boos falling at Shea Stadium to the internet experts who declared that the team “gave up” and “didn’t care about winning.” We don’t need to add a failure of character to their failure on the field. The fact is some Mets were injured, some were slumping, and some just plain weren’t that good to start with. They pressed, they got discouraged, they flubbed things up, but I don’t think they were indifferent and I don’t think they quit. Swap the Mets April with the Mets September and the same people would be saying that the team were fighters who didn’t quit until the end. But they would still finish in the same place and that was the place where they belong.
Similarly I’m a bit miffed by the glee that fans of other teams and the media seem to have in the Mets collapse. If this were the Cubs or half-a-dozen other teams, I’d expect there’d be more sympathy. Since the Mets have history of futility as lovable losers, the hate is a bit inexplicable. It’s like the Yankees draw so much bile to the New York that some of it spills over onto the Mets.
This was a team loss, but if there’s anyone to blame, I’ll blame Omar Minaya and the Mets management. There were some pretty glaring flaws in this teams’ makeup last winter and at the trade line which were not addressed. The team has a solid core. Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran are as good as building blocks to a lineup as you can find. No one could have foreseen the poor season that Carlos Delgado had and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll rebound and return to form next season. John Maine and Oliver Perez are great young pitchers but neither one is an ace. The bullpen of course was highly questionable and almost a complete make over from a good pen in 2006. Joe Smith showed promise early on and Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano could usually be counted on, but they need help.
Unfortunately, around this core of mostly young talent, the Mets have filled out the lineup, rotation, bullpen and bench with aging veterans. At their best they make the Mets a formidable team, but more often than not they are injured and/or in steep decline, and certainly are not enough insurance to take up the slack when the younger players slip up. Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, and Pedro Martinez would make for a killer rotation in 1998, but the Mets can probably afford to keep only one of them if they hope to compete in 2008. Similarly, Shawn Green, Moises Alou, and Jose Valentin are past all-stars but now provide the same production that could be provided by younger, cheaper, and lesser known (and thus more flexible) bats.
I’m not the type of fan who suggests turning the roster topsy-turvy every season, but Omar Minaya does have his work cut out for him. A lot of the aging vets are at the end of their contracts and it will be tempting to resign them. This is especially true since there are no big name free agents this winter and not many prospects in the Mets system ready for the big time. Perhaps Omar can follow the Billy Beane method and scout out some misfit players who can fulfill the Mets needs. I can’t really say for sure though, I’m no hot stove fan, I just know some changes need to be made.
In some ways it may be a good thing that Mets missed the postseason even if there was a slim chance that anything could happen and the Mets would win it all. Frankly, a team that wins the division with less than 90 wins is more lucky than good (sorry Phillies). Missing the playoffs makes the Mets flaws more glaring and hopefully and thus need to be addressed. I’m actually optimistic that we’ll see the Mets rebound next year and for several years to come.
In the postseason I’ll be rooting for the Phillies and the Cubs with the Phillies winning the pennant. In the American League, I’ll take the Indians and the Red Sox with Boston winning the pennant and the World Series. Then again, any World Series with any matchup from among those for teams will be one for the ages.
I’ll close off the 2007 Mets season with links to all my Mets post on this blog. Check in next spring when I’ll resume blogging about the Mets in 2008. Spring Training is only 4 1/2 months away.