It's hard to imagine things would have gotten any worse for this Mets team after a sweep at the hands of Philadelphia, letting the subpar Phillies reenter the division race.
Well, it's been two weeks, and they have. The Mets lost this evening, 6-2, sending Oliver Perez, this season's unlikely ace to the hill, against the Twins' Scott Baker, whose 1-2 record and 7.33 ERA so far this season are an embarrassment to anyone named Scott or Baker.
It marks the sixth straight series dropped by the Mets. This used to be best described as a funk, then a slump, then a lengthy losing streak, Now, however, the Mets' precipitous decline resembles a collapse. The team has been awful defensively, awful offensively, and awful on the hill.
A loss used to be a refuge for this club, infallible, and unable to be threatened by hard-charging opponents. These Mets are weak, resembling in no way or shape the team we grew accustomed to seeing since the inception of "the New Mets."
Sure, the team is 38-32, a record we would have been exceedingly pleased with during the reign of Art Howe. But this isn't working. There are no strings being pulled from above, no Met seemingly threatened with an unsatisfactory fate besides Carlos Gomez, who is the only player on the team giving a consistent level of effort.
Let me amend myself: others on the team are giving a consistently low level of effort, as Carlos Delgado's recent defensive (and offensive) performance makes me pine for Doug Mientkiewicz. Shawn Green ought to be envious of Barry Bonds' range, and Jose Reyes might not even win a home run derby against Jason Tyner right now.
I never anticipated asking this question during this season, especially after a sterling April and May, but can things get any worse for this team? They have been ravaged by many injuries, including Beltran's nagging quad, Moises's shredded quad, and the Duck's shattered thumb.
Pedro's absence deprives the Mets of their true ace, and Duaner Sanchez's cab ride from hell still haunts the Mets in the late innings. One might not be able to credit late-inning collapses for any of the failures since the Phillies series, but Joe Smith has lost his luster and the rest of the pen never had any.
Injuries have shepherded the club to this point, but with no imminent returns from anyone, including Firstings, is it safe to say that things will get any better soon? Pedro might be the jolt who can fix things, but he's nowhere near all there yet. There's nothing there in the minor leagues, unless you long for OF Chip Ambres, whose name's reminiscence to that of a Braves superstar (and announcer) makes me doubt his readiness.
The issue is complacency, at least in part, as Delgado has watched his OBP sink below .300 and Beltran's last homer came on June sixth. Carlos Gomez is the only player capable of pushing Beltran with Endy out, and if Beltran sits, the outfield contains Green and Ledee flanking Gomez.
What's worse is that Julio Franco is the only first baseman on the Mets' roster, and allowing him to spell Delgado might just sink this team even further. Recent ostensibly false reports suggested that Franco was an impetus for conflict within the team, but perhaps Minaya has retained his employ as a personal favor to Delgado, who cannot face any heat from a man old enough to be his father. (**may not be true; I shall consult my inside sources)
Nevertheless, this team plays with varying senses of urgency, none of which seem to be exactly proper, as evidenced by the losing streak. The Mets are fortuitous, as they have the opportunity to end this horrendous interleague play against Oakland while missing their ace, Dan Haren, though Joes Blanton and Kennedy aren't exactly Scott Baker. The Mets will also face Lenny DiNardo, a former Met property.
Don't imagine another sweep, another lost series. Visualize a Mets sweep, a reversal to perpetuate an unprecedented hot streak. Things can't get much worse. My fingers are crossed.
p.s.: new white stripes and smashing pumpkins within three weeks? does it get any better? (no.)
Crosstown Rivals is sponsored by JustGreatTickets.com, your home for Chicago White Sox Tickets.