(Long Island, N.Y.) Back in the late 1970s, the New York Mets used to say that they had a five-year plan for rebuilding the team back into a contender. New personnel would come in and make some luke warm prediction that they needed time to rid the roster of bad contracts given out by their predecessors and the players that they now have begun drafting would need time to mature down on the farm. As soon as everything would click, you will have a winner.
But in today’s world of ‘now-itis’ due to expensive new ballparks and cable networks, organizations have to be coyer about throwing around the dreaded ‘R’ word in order to keep the ticket-buying base happy. Citi Field is far from ‘Grant’s Tomb,’ the playful but appropriate nickname given Shea Stadium decades ago regarding the state that former head honcho M. Donald Grant had put the team in. The old ballpark in Flushing had become a ghost town in those lean years and things only picked up when the core group that would end up becoming the 1986 World Series champions began arriving three years prior.
So it behooves the present day Mets to show some type of hope to the fans and give them reason to believe that perhaps another ’86’ can occur in the not too distant future. But there are a number of players on the roster that the fans had figured into this possible contending future team that have hit a wall – and hard.
Ike Davis (.180) and Lucas Duda (.225) were supposed to supply pop from the left side of the plate in the middle of the lineup but are struggling for the second consecutive season. Both are important for this team to have any chance at even a .500 record in 2013.
As far as the starting pitching goes, it has been Matt Harvey and…no one else. The young righthander has been outstanding with a 4-0 record, 1.44 ERA, 62 strikeouts and 14 walks in 56.1 innings pitched. The rest of the rotation has been inconsistent at best and awful at worst. Jonathan Niese was expected to fill the role as the ace of the staff in the absence of Johan Santana, but has is 2-4, 5.93 ERA after eight starts. Jeremy Hefner (0-4, 4.63) and Dillon Gee (2-4, 5.93) have both been disappointments and not the type of middle-of-the-rotation arms hoped for. Shaun Marcum was injured in Spring Training and the veteran is clearly showing signs of ineffectiveness due to missing quality time by starting out winless in his first three decisions and an ERA nearing nine.
Terry Collins is becoming frustrated by his team’s inability to scratch out runs when there are opportunities to either come back or break a game open. “If we’re going to continue to live by the long ball,” the manager said, “then we’re going to get bit sometimes when you’re trying to hit homers and you’re going to strike out.”
Davis leads the team with 39 strikeouts, with Duda’s 33 and John Buck’s 32 next on the dubious list.
No one expected the Mets – even their most diehard fans – to contend for a playoff spot this season. Yes, they did surprise everyone a year ago by playing extremely well the first half of the season, but much of that was the result of momentum. This time around, the Mets have not even given themselves a running start.
When you are not going to give your fans a postseason, you have to at last make them anxious to see the youngsters become all-around players and the team to gel as the summer heats up. By having one quality starter and a lackluster offense, they can stay home on the days that Harvey is not on the hill and not miss much.
You can only stick with someone so long before what you hoped was a slump is not just the real Davis or Duda. The Mets need to find that out before this season gets even uglier.