I keep telling you to find something better to do with your summer, and today I took my own advice: a friend offered me and my kid a ride to Rockaway Beach to swim and drink on another friend’s convivial porch, and I said yes pretty much instantly. Frozen drinks, friends and the beach? Screw Jon Niese and screw worrying about the pathetic wreckage of the New York Mets.
It was a good choice: Just a cursory look at the after-reports showed me the Mets had made idiotic mistakes on the basepaths, failed at the fundamentals, committed horribly timed errors and given up home runs. Once again. To the Marlins, once again.
Yeah, I’m sure sorry I missed this.
Besides, I’d done my time: Joshua and I were there for all 20 innings and all six and a half hours on Saturday. It was kind of entertaining, in a sick way — once a third “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” loomed as a real possibility there was no way we were leaving, and it was a nice day and we had good company. But a marathon like that is a badge of honor if you wind up winning; if you don’t, it feels like a dunce cap. The Mets’ spellbinding incompetence with runners in scoring position — it was quite literally the worst performance in franchise history — was tough to take during the game, but even tougher to reflect on afterwards.
Today the Mets were arguably worse — less futile, perhaps, but more disaster-prone and more determined to play with their heads up their orange and blue behinds. And after the game some of those heads finally rolled: Ike Davis, Mike Baxter and Rob Carson were sent to Las Vegas. (Before you get excited, their replacements are supposedly Josh Satin, Collin Cowgill and Josh Edgin. Oh goody.)
Davis desperately needed to go down and have some coach slash through the Gordian knot of his approach to hitting, so I’ll spill no more pixels there. I’m not sure what Baxter did that was more glaringly inept than most of his teammates, and no Mets fan should ever let him buy his own beer, but he didn’t do enough right in 2013 to have me or anyone else leap to his defense. It was painfully obvious Carson wasn’t ready, but I don’t understand why he was on the roster in the first place — what’s it do to a young player’s confidence when his manager asks a second starter to toil for 100+ pitches instead of putting him in? Even Dallas Green turned to Mike Maddux before Terry Collins turned to Carson.
So that’s three guys down — four if you count Rick Ankiel, another guy who never should have been here to begin with.
It’s a start. But the Mets need to keep going.
Most obviously, I don’t understand why Jordany Valdespin’s still here — either play him every day or send him down. And Valdespin’s far from alone. The number of Mets for whom a demotion would be unjust is perilously small: If your name’s not Wright, Murphy, Harvey, Parnell, Niese or Byrd, you have no reason to squawk if someone’s preparing a pink slip or a 51s uniform with your name on it.
However much we’d welcome it, though, the Mets aren’t going to make like the judge in The Untouchables and swap the New York and Las Vegas franchises. (The 51s would lose bushels of games too.) So what can we hope for?
A trade — a move for a big bat. There’s no guarantee the free-agent market will solve what’s ailing the Mets, and there’s really no guarantee that the Mets will be able to spend free-agent money even if they want to. (Howard Megdal explains why here.) There have been rumblings about a franchise-remaking swap being in the works for a while, and I hope those rumblings are right. It needs to be done, even if it means giving up a painful number of good prospects, even if it means overpaying.
It needs to be done because the fanbase is in a perilous state. Saturday was a Matt Harvey start, on a beautiful day, against a supposedly weak opponent. When Harvey was flirting with no-hitters in April weather, we detected the buzz in the park and let ourselves dream about what Citi Field might sound like with Harveymania at work in the summertime.
The answer? It sounds empty.
There was nobody there by the end on Saturday, but there was nobody there at the beginning either. The fans don’t care, and that doesn’t make them crazy: It’s no fun watching a phenom lose 1-0 or 2-1.
As Mets fans, we’ve gone from angry to apathetic. We loathe the team we want to love … and increasingly we’re tuning them out, which is even worse. We’ve realized that yes, we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach.
I don’t know a single Mets fan who trusts the Wilpons or their surrogates to tell the truth about their finances, or who believes that the dead money coming off the books after 2013 will be replaced. Opinion is more divided about Sandy Alderson and the front office. I continue to think Alderson’s plan is sound but he’s been undermined by ownership’s ever-changing stories about when the coffers will be refilled.
But though my opinion hasn’t changed in that respect, it has in another: I think Sandy’s out of time.
It might have been different. Going into this season, it wasn’t crazy to hope that Davis would build on the second half of 2012, that Daniel Murphy would keep hitting and get better at second, that Lucas Duda’s eye for the strike zone and prodigious power would outweigh his scary defense, and that Ruben Tejada would keep evolving into a sound defender and a high-average hitter. Murph’s done his part, but Davis and Tejada have been disasters and Duda is confused at the plate and wretched in the field.
With three guys seen as complementary players performing indifferently or abysmally, the lineup has turned into a horror show, with the last eight weeks of baseball impossible to watch. And that’s eliminated Alderson’s already-limited room to maneuver. The fanbase can no longer wait until Opening Day 2014, or the offseason and potential free-agent moves. Something has to be done very, very soon to convince us that the wretched, contraction-worthy team we’re no longer watching isn’t what we’ll get in 2014 too. Starting pitching isn’t what’s ailing the Mets, meaning Zack Wheeler isn’t going to turn the tide. Of the Mets’ top offensive prospects, one doesn’t have a position and the other can’t stay on the field. If free agency isn’t the answer for the Mets’ hitting woes, that’s all the more reason to remake this lineup through trades.
I know it’s not much of a blueprint. That’s not what I’m good at it. All I know is that something has to change. A lot has to change. And it has to change quickly. Sending Davis down was a start. It better not be the finish.