By Taryn “the Coop” Cooper
Hexed. Cursed. Woe is us. These are just a few of the complaints you hear on Twitter or blogs these days, regarding the state of the Mets. Oh, and in case you haven’t heard besides Ike Davis who went on the DL last week, David Wright was apparently playing with a broken back for a month, Chris Young is out for the season to get Tommy John surgery, Johan Santana MIGHT come back after All-Star Break and Pedro Beato was on the DL, but has been reactivated.
OMG DUH METS R CURSED!!1!!1111!
No, I would have to say they are not cursed. Maybe a bit of bad luck here and there, but there are no ancient burial grounds that have cast a cloud over CitiField these last three seasons. (But I *might* have been joking about that on Twitter last night)
In fact, I think all these injuries have done is expose the weaknesses the team has had over the last several years. The weaknesses being: the lack of depth within the organization. The lack of depth mess that Sandy Alderson and crew were tapped to clean up, that will hopefully occur with little to no rumblings from the fan base and media (who are we kidding, right?). But that’s the difference between a team constructed with very high expectations (like the Mets were, especially after 2006), or a team with depth (like the Philadelphia Phillies or the Boston Red Sox). These teams didn’t use injuries as an excuse for losing. In fact, these teams turned it around, made it a strength and a positive.
A few weeks ago, during one of our Kult of Mets Personalities podcast (which in case you weren’t aware, are available to listen to under the Ivie League Productions banner and downloadable on iTunes for FREE!!), fellow KinersKorner.com lifer, Geeeeeene (as Nik Kolidas calls him), suggested that there is a mindset with the Mets especially the younger guys who have been around awhile (like Wright and Jose Reyes) when they start to lose several games…a look a sheer terror, one that’s “Oh here we go again.” And there’s no stopping it. That’s more of a psychological loss there, but the fact is, the lack of depth in the organization has come to bite this team in the ass more often than we can care to remember.
Compare that look of horror to what goes on with, say, the Phillies. Chase Utley goes down for a long stretch…and they don’t believe they will lose. Yes, they have a strong pitching staff. Yes, they still have Ryan Howard, among others, who is a formidable threat in the lineup. They also have a declining Jimmy Rollins taking up at-bats and a bullpen with so many holes in it, perhaps the cheesesteak topping should be of the Swiss variety.
But the kicker is: they don’t believe they will lose. They always put themselves in a position to win. Pitching is key, but you can’t win without scoring any runs. Boom goes the dynamite. But the other issue is the factor of depth within the organization. Over the years, they’ve depleted their farm system to “win now” but at the same time, they have maturing talent and were willing to spend for good backups.
Something the Mets have not been able to do wisely over the course of the past several years. I mean, let’s examine the evidence. Moises Alou: loved watching him hit, but he was useless with his injuries. Meanwhile, was there a legitimate backup for him? No, just a rushed Lastings Milledge.
Carlos Delgado: came back from surgery in 2007 and wasn’t quite the player we depended on him being. So who was there to fill in for him, to spell him a day off when necessary, at 1B? How ‘bout NOBODY?
Jose Valentin was our second baseman in 2006. After thinking lightning would be caught in a bottle, he was tapped to do that again in 2007. How about we’re still paying Luis Castillo for the bungle up?
Angel Pagan was relied on to be an everyday player in 2010, when past performance dictated otherwise. However, it was not like the Mets had much a choice when Carlos Beltran went down for knee surgery prior to the 2010 season. So when he gets hurt, and the Mets need to scramble to have Jason Pridie, a career minor-leaguer who’s been around since 2002 and is finally getting his “big break” here, starting in his absence?
I could go on and on, but the reality is, I don’t want to insult your intelligence. But it does lead me to the latest injury to our 3B stalwart David Wright. Davey hurt his back a month ago (a month ago!) and neglected to tell anyone until he was basically given a day off to “clear his head” (like Jorge Posada should have done on Saturday – oh!). Consultations led to the diagnosis of a stress fracture in his back and to him being DL’d.
Now, there can be some of the camp who think he’s just a warrior who wants to help his team. Hey, I think that’s admirable. On the other hand, could it be possible there was some personal pressure on Davey himself to continue to play because WHO THE HELL WAS GOING TO PLAY IF HE WASN’T AROUND?
It sounds narcissistic, sure, but at the same time it’s a realistic question. Now Willie Harris, Mr. Futility himself, is the Mets starting third baseman. And why’s that?
It’s the depth, stupid!
I remember a few years ago, someone was discussing the “Curse of the Bambino,” and I mean, who doesn’t love a good ghost story, right? Yet, it took a Yankee fan to give some perspective if you can believe it. He said:
“There are no ‘curses.’ Only good or bad teams.”
I never thought I’d agree on that philosophy with a Yankee fan, but he did have a point. Perhaps we were shielding ourselves from the truth when we also bought into the whole “injuries as an excuse” um, excuse.
Furthermore, it was easy to shield the results of bad baseball from the truth by placing it on an inanimate object: the injuries. When the reality is, bad baseball decisions from the top on down led the Mets to the path they are on today.
The Mets have no depth, ladies and germs. That separates the good teams from the bad teams. And the lack of preparedness is what has gotten this team into trouble with injuries the last few years.