(Long Island, N.Y.) Whoever thought the New York Mets would be a mere half game out of first place near the All-Star break, please raise your hands. Now that all of you are standing with your hands at your sides, they are now seven games behind the National League East front-running Atlanta Braves and seven and a half out of last place.
Sure, the Mets were playing over their heads for a spell and even had some quality starting pitching for most of the first half, but it has all fallen apart mighty fast as the temperatures have heated up. If not for a blown call at home plate this past Sunday in San Francisco, the losing streak would be seven and counting.
The Mets most recent blunder has been getting swept at the hands of the Diamondbacks, who are firmly entrenched in the basement of the National League West. And this has come with the return of Carlos Beltran, once viewed as a boost for a team in dire need of one.
The problem with that is Angel Pagan, who has been the biggest surprise of the season for the Mets. The young outfielder is better defensively by far to a rusty Beltran wearing a knee brace, but has been moved to right field and Jeff Francouer to the bench.
“We have four great outfielders,” Pagan told reporters, “and that’s a good problem to have because you feel comfortable with whoever is playing.”
And what about Jose Reyes, who is still smarting from a strained oblique? It seems as if the flashy shortstop finds the Disabled List more than not and takes longer than usual to heal from basic injuries that all athletes sustain throughout their careers. What would Kevin Mawae says about Reyes? If you recall, the former Jet center broke his right hand a few years back and played with a cast. Not only that, but he learned how to snap the football with his left hand while his right was incapacitated.
Moving over to the rotation, Johan Santana got through a rough patch but still cannot find the offensive support when he is on the hill. Number two starter Mike Pelfrey has been getting pounded after a great start, as has R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer came up from the minors and won his first five decisions, but has gone 1-4 since then. Jonathan Niese (6-4, 3.54) has had a nice season interrupted for a bit by an injury while the bloom has come off the rose that is Hisanori Takahashi. The Japanese lefty is better suited back in the bullpen and will return there once another starter is found.
And that brings up the $64,000 question for general manager Omar Minaya. Should he make a deal for an arm that may help the Mets right now in their quest for the postseason or hang onto a nice young nucleus that they have put together so far? Here’s a vote for the latter, considering that the Mets are also looking up at four teams in the Wild Card race. Chances are that they will not have enough – even with a good starter being added – to make the playoffs. Why trade someone such as Niese, Ike Davis or Josh Thole to find that out the hard way?
Being three games over .500 this late in the year is a surprise in its own, so the Mets should use the remainder of the season to get some quality reps in for the talented rookies and prospects that are up and will be arriving in September.