Mike Piazza. Carlos Beltran. Aaron Heilman. Oliver Perez. Carlos Beltran. Jason Bay. Ike Davis.
Yes, Carlos Beltran is on this list twice. Yes, these players have absolutely nothing in common with each other on the surface.
But when Ike Davis got traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Zack Thornton and a player to be named later, he left a void within the DeMattia family and it took a couple of days for the devastation to kick in. In our house, we get together and calmly discuss who the team sad sack is.
The sad sack orginated back in 2005 with Mike Piazza. Don’t get me wrong; I love Mike Piazza as much as the next person, but in the last year of his Mets career, it seemed like he went up for each plate appearance with this angry/depressed look on his face. 2005 was a rough year, with new management and a new front office, so the sad sack was a fun way for us to get all of our frustrations out. The New Mets turned out to be a lot like the Old Mets. A. Lot.
I guess it was 2006 when Carlos Beltran made his comments about being 80-85% from coming back from God knows what injury. Beltran had the same angry/depressed look that Piazza had had the year before and not only did he become the next sad sack, but he also earned a new nickname, Mr. 85%. It was 2006. It was the best team we had fielded in a long time. I’m just going to leave it at that.
Somewhere in between the Unspeakable Event of 2006 and the Unspeakable Event of 2008, the sad sack evolved from the guy who looked the most depressed at the plate to the guy who was just, plain and simple, the worst player on the team. 2007 was supposed to be our year and so was 2008 (and so was 2009 for that matter). The sad sack turned into the scapegoat. It was easy to blame Aaron Heilman, Carlos Beltran, and Oliver Perez, especially after Perez got a 3-year/$36 million extension from Omar Minaya.
After Heilman was traded to Seattle in 2008 and Perez was released in 2011, the sad sack baton went back to Beltran. He was easy to blame. To this day, Mets Twitter has a “blame Beltran” hashtag and I am guilty of using it. But on July 28, 2011, Beltran was traded to the Giants for Zack Wheeler. And the search for a new sad sack commenced.
Enter Jason Bay. Bay signed a 4-year/$66 million contract on December 29, 2009. Bay played in only 95 games for the Mets in 2010 due to a concussion, sustained in a game against the Dodgers when he ran into a fenced wall and his head jerked back. Bay stayed off the radar, but the DeMattia family still had Beltran. Bay’s 2011 campaign started with another stint on the DL, but he still managed to play in 123 games. During his injury-plagued Mets tenure, Jason Bay never had a batting average over .260, including a dismal .165 in 2012. He did, however, hit his 200th career home run with the team and was only the third Canadian player to do so, behind Larry Walker and Matt Stairs.
On November 7, 2012, the Mets and Jason Bay agreed to terminate their contract a year early. Instead of pulling a Bobby Bonilla, the Mets paid Jason Bay $16 million to play for the Seattle Mariners. Enter Ike Davis. In 2010, we all liked Ike. He hit home runs. He flipped into the dugout to make catches. In 2011, he was limited to 36 games because of an ankle injury that was originally supposed to sideline him for one game. We watched Davis’ power numbers go down over the course of the next two years, and his angry face started to appear more often. People, myself included, actually started to boo Ike Davis. My brother, however, did purchase his jersey. But then again, my brother also has a Justin Turner shirt. I try not to judge him.
We all know how this spring went down. Davis and Lucas Duda were supposed to battle for the first base job. Then they both got hurt, in typical Mets fashion. However, Ike Davis was still my sad sack, even if he had to be it from the bench. Then Pittsburgh needed a left-handed bat and Davis got traded. I listened to Adele. A lot. Like on repeat. The last time I listened to Adele that much was when Matt Harvey announced he was getting Tommy John surgery.
At first, we couldn’t really pinpoint one player. There were multiple group texts and three way conversations that ended in three different answers. For a while, we considered Curtis Granderson, but even when he struggles, he’s always so nice and personable with the fans. My dad considered Wheeler. I nominated Ruben Tejada. When the Mets send someone to AAA specifically to learn your position, you automatically become the front runner for team sad sack.
I hope this trade works out the way Sandy Alderson hoped. I hope the reports about the PTBNL are correct and it’s a top player from the 2013 draft. But more importantly, is Thornton ready to pitch in the bullpen yet?
Just to quickly summarize how bad things have gotten for the Mets: Justin Turner is your only .300 hitter, Shaun Marcum and Jeremy Hefner can’t win, even on a good day, and there is even a Twitter feed dedicated to telling fans whether or not Ike Davis struck out. The drama over Jordany Valdespin’s showboating and subsequent plunking against the Pirates isn’t exactly helping things either.
The breaking point had to be when my dad texted me last night to apologize for making me a Mets fan. Anybody that knows me knows that I live for the Mets, and have since I was four years old. Baseball is my sport; I can’t exactly call myself a football fan or a hockey fan since I only casually follow the Jets and the Islanders. When baseball season is over, I count down the days until pitchers and catchers report and Opening Day is my Christmas morning.
The last six seasons have been bad, each in their own unique way, but this season has been atrocious. In their last 26 games, the Mets are 7-19. Despite this, the Mets are still a safe 4.5 games ahead of the Marlins for The Battle for Fourth. The only days I look forward to are the days that Matt Harvey pitches, and even those aren’t guaranteed wins anymore. Harvey is easily the best thing about the Mets this season and should stand with an 8-0 record right now, but doesn’t due to lack of run support.
There is no set every day outfield; even our newest Met, Rick Ankiel, is platooned in center with Juan Lagares, who should be playing every day based on defense alone. If the outfield doesn’t produce anything offensively, then they should at least play defense. The bullpen is worn out because aside from Harvey, none of the starters have been going seven innings. It’s the same recipe for disaster that we had in 2012, except the 2013 Mets have imploded quicker than expected.
Through all of this, I can’t help but laugh. I have to make sarcastic remarks on Twitter (if you don’t already follow me, follow me here) otherwise I’ll go insane. There’s no point in getting depressed about the Mets because you have to expect it from them by now. I still plan on going to Citi Field in July and enjoying all the stadium has to offer me because it’s a beautiful ballpark that I haven’t visited in over two years. I still listen to Howie and Josh on the FAN religiously because I enjoy the banter. Maybe the Mets will win a game or two and I will find a reason to be slightly more optimistic, but for right now, there’s no crying in baseball because you’ll miss it when it’s gone in October.
Or at least, that’s close to the sound effect I used to decribe yesterday’s 8-3 loss to the Dodgers in the 12th inning. Some fans might go for an expletive-filled response. Some fans might just hang their heads in shame.
There’s really no straight answer as to why the Mets are doing so bad coming back after the All Star break. It’s very easy to blame the bullpen, with a major league-worst 5.05 ERA. It’s very easy to blame the starters, whose combined ERA was 3.96 before the break and is 6.36 after the break. It’s very easy to blame the offense, who went 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position yesterday.
The consistent Achilles heel, however, has been the Mets bullpen, which ranks seond in the major leagues with 16 blown saves. You know that Terry Collins is desperate as a manager when he uses R.A. Dickey to pitch an inning of releif, and he still gives up two runs. The starting rotation had to be good and go deep into games because the Mets never knew what they were going to get from the bullpen.
Even the starters are struggling post-All Star break, with two huge vacancies in the rotation left by Johan Santana and Dillon Gee. Santana was placed on the 15-day Disabled List with an ankle injury that was causing him not to land properly and put extra stress on his arm. Gee was placed on the DL after an arterial blood clot was discovered in his right shoulder. Gee had successful surgery to widen the artery in his shoulder. It’s highly likely that Gee misses the remainder of the season. It has been announced that Jeremy Hefner will start on Wednesday while top pitching prospect Matt Harvey will make his major league debut on Thursday.
The offense, at best, has been streaky for the Mets. They’re either there or they’re not. While they have been their best when there are two outs in the inning, scoring a major league-best 198 runs in two out situations, they are stranding too many runners on the base paths and taking perfectly hittable pitches for strikes.
It has always been my personal opinion that when somebody is hitting the ball, you put them in the lineup. I understand the whole righty-lefty situational offense, but if you put Jordany Valdespin in to pinch hit, and he hits a home run, then it’s my opinion that he gets put in the starting lineup the next day, whether you have Jason Bay or not. If Daniel Murphy goes 4-for-5 one day, then I expect him to be in the lineup the next day. And if a lefty is pitching, Scott Hairston should always be in the lineup.
Call it an annual second half slide, go ahead, because that’s what it is. I wish I could say things will get better, but I’m not a crystal ball. I can only watch with the rest of you and cheer for my team, good times or bad.
If the Mets, by some miracle, re-sign Jose Reyes, then all you really need is another outfielder with some pop. And to bring in the fences at Citi Field.
However, we have to look at the possibility that the Mets don’t get Reyes back. Reyes led the NL in batting average and multi-hit games last season. If you lose Reyes, you’re losing a lot of hits.
I really sincerely believe that the Mets need to find a place for Daniel Murphy on this team. Before Murphy got hurt in August, he was also among the league leaders in hitting. Plus, if you’re like me, you said the same thing when he got hurt: “Well, the season’s over now.”
If you’re like me, the next thing you would have said is, “Well, they still David Wright.”
Wright is coming off the worst season of his career, and he still managed to lead the team in home runs and RBIs. And he missed two months of the season. Before 2009, Wright was never an injury risk, playing in 160 games each year. Then Matt Cain hit a fastball to his head and ended up on my hit list. I blame the 2006 Home Run Derby and the 2009 concussion for D-Dubs not being D-Dubs.
We also have another weapon in our arsenal that we may be overlooking: Ike Davis. Before he collided with David Wright in the strangest collision ever, Davis was among the team leaders in every offensive category. He was seeing the ball wall, he was producing runs, he was doing everything Terry Collins could ever ask for. I really felt 2011 was going to be the year Ike became a superstar. Now, I just blame David.
I also like Lucas Duda, who was Davis’s replacement for a good part of the season. Not only does he have the best hair on the team, Duda has the potential to be a strong number five hitter. Last season, Duda posted a .292 batting average with 10 home runs, 50 RBI, along with a .370 on-base percentage and a .420 SLG. And that was only in 100 games; imagine if Duda was your every day right fielder and he was playing in 60 more games. Plus it’s a fun name to say.
Again, I really think that the Mets can do okay with what we have. We did okay with what we had last season; we’re not the Phillies, but nobody expects us to be the Phillies. Every newspaper picked us to finish dead last and we came in fourth. Yay us! I don’t think 2012 will be a playoff year, but I think it will be a “get the team above .500 year.”
I’d be happy with .500 and no longer being the laughing stock of baseball. Thanks, 2011 Boston Red Sox, for helping me with one goal!