the sports section

Mets Fans: Don’t Panic, But Here’s Where You’re Hurting

Mets fans: It’s best not to panic about anything one month in, particularly a shortened month of baseball like this April. The season is only one-eighth over, and fans, media, and players alike all tend to overrate what happens early and what happens late. July will matter as much as April will. Everyone should probably relax.

Still, as they enter into a weekend series with their alleged rivals in Philadelphia, it’s difficult to imagine the Mets’ season starting much worse than it has. After 21 games last season, the New York Mets were 11–10. In 2007, they were 13–8. In 2006, they were 14–7. Right now, they are 9–12. They could be 0–21, sure. But that trend line is not going in the right direction. Here are the major concerns, and the team’s chances of improvement.

David Wright
Mets fans hoped Wright’s perceived inability to hit in clutch situations was proved wrong by his game-winning hit in the World Baseball Classic. But he missed several chances to knock in runs in the infuriating 3–2 loss to Florida on Wednesday, has struck out 27 times already and, frankly, looks lost at the plate. Wright has always enjoyed being the face of the franchise, but that appears to be dragging him down right now, and the inevitable boos that are raining down on him probably aren’t helping.
Improvement coming? Without question. Wright is too talented to struggle for an extended period of time.

The focus of the offseason, and the target of most fans’ blame for last season’s “collapse,” led to the Mets bringing in J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez. Neither pitcher has been terrible, but the bullpen has blown two games in a row. More to the point: The bullpen around Putz and K-Rod hasn’t settled into a groove, making everything seem more chaotic than it actually is.
Improvement coming? Yes. The Mets overpaid for K-Rod, and the bullpen was just one of the team’s several issues … but having those two guys at the end of games is a luxury every other team in baseball would love. If the Mets falter this year, it won’t be the fault of those two.

Johan Santana remains, probably, the best pitcher in baseball, which makes it hurt that much more that the Mets have lost his last two starts. The rest of the staff is a disaster right now. John Maine and Mike Pelfrey have been unexceptional so far, and Livan Hernandez is, predictably, getting knocked around. But Oliver Perez — the guy the Mets just gave a $36 million, three-year contract to — has been awful. (The Mets could, amazingly, send their big free agent signing to the minor leagues: Jon Neise might be called up to replace him.) The Mets look like they have an ace in Santana, two No. 3 starters in Maine and Pelfrey … and nothing else.
Improvement coming? Maybe. The Mets need Oliver Perez to find himself, and fast. Maine and Pelfrey should come around … but the Mets do not have a rotation that even resembles championship quality.

Jerry Manuel and the Bad Vibes

Manuel has made some curious decisions, most notably asking backup catcher Omir Santos to pinch hit for Ramon Castro in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s Marlins loss. (Santos is not only an inferior hitter, he wasn’t even ready; he had to sprint in from the bullpen just to take a few practice swings.) The general concern is that it’s impossible for fans to trust the Mets right now. As the great Faith and Fear in Flushing put it, “The Mets need a heart transplant, a new set of guts and a severe makeover.”
Manuel needs to turn things around.
Improvement coming? Manuel had better go to it, or Mets fans are going to look back on the days when they were even in the race in September with nostalgia.

Mets Fans: Don’t Panic, But Here’s Where You’re Hurting