April is the cruellest month, wrote T.S. Eliot. If he were following the 2011 Mets, Elliot would probably amend that line. April is the cruellest month. Of course, you can’t underestimate May, June, July, August and September.
After the Mets began the season 3-1, I actually felt a slight glimmer of hope. Just a slight one. They got three good starts, were playing with energy, Willie Harris was looking like the spark-plug they so badly needed. Wright and Davis were driving in runs.
Since then, they’ve gone 2-10. But frankly, that’s deceiving. They haven’t looked nearly a good as their record. How foolish of me to allow even a small ray of hope and optimism to peek through the shades and invade my world of darkness.
Okay, maybe it’s not that dreary, but it has been disheartening, despite today’s 3-2 win over the Braves. I know it’s very early. Even the Red Sox have looked awful. But they have scads of talent, one of the best managers in the game. and plenty of money. That usually helps, especially when the guys doing the spending have a pretty fair track record of investing ownership’s dollars. It’s only a matter of time before they go on a tear and start pushing the Yanks and the Rays.
But for the Amazins, it’s not too early to say that things look even less promising than imagined. To the optimist, who may say things can only get better, I would respond: Really, you think so? Try looking at the glass half empty for a change. It’s filled with warm Bud Light.
Here’s why this season, two weeks in and already sapping me of energy and patience, is circling the drain:
— The starting pitching, which held the promise of giving the Mets a chance to win a few days a week, has been abysmal. Pelfrey, Niese and Dickey, all question marks but each with some track record of success last year, have been disappointing, to say the least. Particularly disturbing is Pelfrey. Sure Niese is young and must work through the ups and downs. Dickey’s a knuckler and may need to time to get the feel of his temperamental pitch, but Pelfrey was supposed to be the de facto ace until Santana returned (if that ever appens). He’s looks lost out there and appears on the verge of an implosion. He’s fragile and everyone knows it. Chris Young, the one bright spot in the rotation, is now on the shelf with tendonitis in his bicep. He and the Mets are down-playing the injury — this from a guy who has spent much of the past three years on the shelf, and from a team that has a recent history of minimizing the severity of injuries that linger on endlessly (Reyes, Beltran, Santana, Bay, Church). I’d be stunned if Young if makes 20 starts this year. As for the other reclamation project, Chris Capuano, I would say he’s a few more atrocious starts from being jettisoned. The Mets answers to filling the holes in their rotation: Dillon Gee, and reliever D.J. Carrasco. Ouch!
— The bullpen is about as bad as expected. But should anyone be surprised? Bobby Parnell clearly can’t handle the set-up role (I’m not sure what role he can fill, for that matter, which is a shame for a guy who throws 98 mph). A shaky bullpen just gets further exposed when the starters can’t make it to the sixth inning. What happens when you get deep into the summer and an already weak corps of arms starts wearing down? Well, you can just look at the Mets, 2007-2010, to get a hint. But those teams had more talent. This one? I dread the thought. Expect at least two dozen arms to pass through the Mets pen in 2011.
— The lineup is as punchless as it’s been in years. The few guys who can hit and need to carry the team — Wright, Davis, Beltran, Reyes — are pressing and not delivering in the clutch. What else is new? Two outs and a runner in scoring position? There is no better bet in baseball — maybe in all of professional team sports — that the Mets will fail to score. I’m serious: if Vegas posted odds every time the Mets threatened to score, I would make a mint betting against them. Then again, how much can you make given 1:10 odds? Of course, if the “big guns” start hitting, and Jason Bay ever returns in one piece (I think I saw his picture on the back of a milk carton), then the Mets should have a pretty potent lineup, right? Oops, I started looking at the glass half full. My bad.
— I give Terry Collins a lot of credit for taking this job. I think he has a lot of fire in his belly and he’s trying like heck to push the right buttons. And I like the way he quickly jettisoned a few guys who had no place in the majors like Lucas Duda and Blaine Boyer (what was Sandy Alderson thinking when he signed this guy?). But Collins looks like a gravedigger without a shovel. Lost in the dark. I hope he can make it past July 1.
— We know the Mets are a little short on cash. But the Wilpons’ bank account won’t look any healthier if this team maintains its death spiral. Empty seats, empty parking lots, short lines at Shake Shack and beer stands, a drop in merchandise sales and TV ratings. Can the Mets’ financial state grow worse? Yes it can and likely will. An infusion of capital from a new investor — which seems to progressing toward a short list of qualified candidates — won’t have impact on the field any time soon. It’ll just help keep the team solvent. Which is not a bad thing, but solvency will keep the lights on, but won’t help your ERA or OBP.
At least it’ll be warmer in May.