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Feet First The New York
2002-08-23 10:52
by Mike Carminati

Feet First

The New York Mets are in the midst of an 11-game losing streak (just 6 short of their rookie-year nadir of 17) and are experiencing a 3-17 August. They started the current streak one game over .500, 13.5 games behind the Braves, in 2nd place in the NL East. They are now ten games in arrears at 58-68, in last place in the NL East, 23 games behind Atlanta. They started the month at 55-51, in third place in the wild-card standings just 4.5 games behind the leader, Los Angeles. They are now 14.5 games behind the Dodgers in ninth place in the wild-card standings (with only four teams behind them).

For the month they are batting .233 with a .298 on-base percentage, a .331 slugging average, and a .629 OPS (on-base plus slugging). They have been outscored 96 to 53 for the month. Of the position played who have played regularly in the month, only Rey Ordonez is batting over .264 (.328 with an .806 OPS). The pitching has held its own with a 4.27 ERA, but with a run support average of 2.7 runs per game for the month, it has not mattered.

All of this probably spells the end in New York for manager Bobby Valentine and GM Steve Phillips before next season if not sooner. The NY Times evidently has sooner in mind when it recounts the ouster of Dallas Green six years ago Monday that gave then Triple-A manager Valentine his chance. It occurred when Green and the Mets returned to New York after a road trip. The Mets return from their current road trip on Thursday.

Valentine apparently sees the writing on the wall and has chosen to go down fighting, fighting with his players that is. "Some guys have shown their true colors...Just a sense some guys could've done more," Valentine is quoted as saying in the Times. He backed away from comments that he had made in a radio interview that owner Fred Wilpon should fire him if Wilpon feels he is to blame, saying that he was stating the obvious.

Valentine pointed to Edgardo Alfonso and Al Leiter whose contract issues he claimed "made them less team-oriented." Leiter, who re-signed with the Mets during the season, didn't take kindly to Valentine's remarks: "If he's accusing me of not being a team player, he's wrong."

The Times then states that "[t]oday Valentine mentioned David Weathers, Scott Strickland, Mark Guthrie, Vance Wilson and Joe McEwing as players who had kept the team first during the losing. Later, he added Timo Perez and Jeromy Burnitz."

For the record, Alfonza has been hurt but was 4-for-9 in the two games he played in August. Leiter has a 4.33 ERA, about the team average, and has one of their three wins for the month. In August Strickland has been good with a 3.27 ERA, but Guthrie (8.22 ERA with two losses) and Weathers (5.68) have not. McEwing is batting .185 for the month with a .399 OPS but still has gotten decent playing time. Wilson is batting .231 in August, about the team average, but maybe singling out backup catcher Wilson is a way to send a message to starter Piazza, who is struggling. Perez is batting .250 (4th among the regulars), and Burnitz .200 for the month.

It seems that Valentine has decided to bestow his approbation while ignoring actual performance. Maybe he is just expressing his frustration with the team for "rolling their eyes" when he says things like his clubhouse "disciples" need to carry his message, and so now he is singling out those disciples who have. Maybe he was just sending some love out to his peeps. Whatever the reason, he is not being very empowering or synergistic or any of the other '90s buzzwords for proactive and playing nice.

Phillips, however, has decided to go out with the "Let's put on a show, kids" mentality:

"I haven't studied the numbers," Phillips said, "but it would probably be one of the biggest comebacks in the game if we come back this year. But we have to play every day and every inning like we believe that can happen. We have to play with the kind of pride a champion has even though we haven't played like champions."

The Mets though not mathematically elimated are as dead as door nails. Phillips must know that on some level. Phillips probably realizes that he is more responsible having re-built this team in the offseason and is just trying to save his job, but it is highly likely that both will go and possibly soon.

Just think that if the Mets were to endure a streak like their current one going forward, they would be second to only league doormat Milwaukee in futility. Whatever happens with the rest of the Mets season, it will be a far cry from what had been anticipated.

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