Monday, August 02, 2004

We built this city on... ummm..... I forget

Does anyone else not feel particularly sorry for the Mets right now?

The latest in a series of boneheaded deals that have plagued the franchise since its inception brought in underachieving starters Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano, ostensibly to help the Mets' pennant race. Unfortunately, what nearly every Mets fan knew (but Jim Duquette apparently did not) was that the race was already over.

Seven games back and fading fast, the Mets' intrepid GM pulled the trigger anyway, selling off the team's best prospects for a pair of baggage-toting hurlers.

We can only speculate as to Duquette's motivations -- pressure from players, fans, and the media were likely all factors -- but maybe his misguided belief that his team was only a quick fix away from a playoff berth is the most disturbing one. Duquette fired the only bullets left in his holster and in doing so shot the Mets' rebuilding efforts in the foot.

Remember Duquette's promise to build the Mets around youth, pitching, and defense? Let's examine that, shall we?

Youth: David Wright has shown a bit of promise. He has two home runs in 11 games despite a .220 batting average. But the most alarming concern has to be his play in the field, where he's looked a bit overmatched.

Jose Reyes has impressed with his speed; but his fragility remains a major concern until he proves he can last five games without tweaking a leg or an ankle.

The only other youngsters remaining on the Mets' ledger are in the bullpen, and we all know how well they've pitched this year. Grade: C

Pitching: We'll give them a pass here. Duquette has built a talented, if eclectic, staff of arms that should be able to take the Mets deeper into games and squeeze out a few more wins. Of course, that's assuming that Tom Glavine and Al Leiter stay healthy, Zambrano stays in the strike zone, and Benson stays, period.

On the bullpen side, it's a disaster. Mike Stanton has been a bust. John Franco is one or two more bad performances away from retirement (or at least he should be). Braden Looper has been adequate, but his blown save against Florida last month could be pointed to as turning point in the season. The rest of the staff is unreliable and unproven in key situations. Grade: B-

Defense: The gravest miscalculation in the Jim Duquette era has been the signing of Kaz Matsui, a capable hitter who has yet been utterly hopeless as a shortstop. Worse still, Matsui's addition forced the Mets to move slick-fielding Jose Reyes to second, where his range and strong arm are wasted on shorter throws and fewer opportunities.

Mike Cameron has made some spectacular plays in center field this year, but the talk of him challenging Andruw Jones for the Gold Glove awards was clearly overstated. The Mike Piazza experiment has been wobbly at best. Speaking of wobbly, Wright has already made three errors. And Cliff Floyd's aching achilles renders him practically immobile in left field.Grade: D-