What Went Wrong: New York Mets

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The following completes a series profiling some of 2009’s biggest disappointments.



New York Mets




Record: 69-92 (4th in NL East)




How It Happened:




The Mets entered their inaugural season at Citi Field with legitimate
questions about the back-end of their rotation and their corner
outfield spots, but with four of the best players in the game and a
retooled bullpen, it appeared that they were in fine position to
reclaim the top spot in the National League East. The baseball gods had
a different plan in mind.




The team has endured injuries to nearly every significant player on
their roster (David Wright, Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran
and Carlos Delgado among them). Reyes hasn’t appeared in a game since
May 20 (hamstring) while Delgado has been sidelined since May 10 (hip
surgery). And J.J. Putz, who was expected to be the bridge to new
closer Francisco Rodriguez, hasn’t thrown a pitch since June 4 (elbow).
Oliver Perez, who was signed to a mind-boggling three-year, $36 million
deal over the winter, was limited to just 14 starts (knee). But with an
awful 6.82 ERA and 58 walks in 66 innings, that’s probably for the
best. Even their top minor league reinforcements (Jon Niese and
Fernando Martinez) suffered season-ending injuries.





Their depleted lineup has managed a major-league worst 95 home runs,
the franchise’s lowest output since another over-hyped, over-priced
flameout in 1992. Daniel Murphy leads the team with just 12 homers.
Critics have been quick to blame Citi Field for Wright’s power outage
(career-low 10 home runs), however his home-road splits are even. With
140 strikeouts in 533 at-bats (26.3%), he’s clearly changed his
approach at the plate with a lack of protection around him. He plans to
work with hitting coach Howard Johnson during the offseason to round himself back into
shape for 2010.




While the off-field distractions were utterly embarrassing (Tony
Bernazard, Omar Minaya-Adam Rubin, Jerry Manuel’s very public rivalry
with Ryan Church), what was left of the product on the field set new
standards of losing in the most epic and painful ways possible. From
missing third base (Ryan Church) to a dropped pop-fly by Luis Castillo
against the Yankees in June to a pair of walk-off grand slams served up
by Francisco Rodriguez (the first ever to do it in one season), the
Mets were not satisfied with simply slipping into unremarkable
mediocrity. They lost. A lot. And they wanted you to remember it.




Silver Linings:



After his unforgettable drop against the
Yankees, I wondered out loud if Luis Castillo could survive the
blunder. Well, he’s done that and then some, batting .316/.398/.351
with 25 RBI, 44 runs scored and 14 stolen bases since June 12. With an
overall line of .304/.389/.347 with 77 runs scored in 141 games
(shockingly, the third most among Mets position players this season),
Castillo is no longer the fans’ favorite whipping boy. While Omar
Minaya can now claim that the signing isn’t a complete disaster, he
should be looking for a taker during the offseason.




Angel Pagan has earned himself a spot on the Mets’ bench next
season. Plugging a hole while Carlos Beltran was on the mend, the
28-year-old outfielder has batted .298/.343/.469 with six home runs, 32
RBI and 14 stolen bases in 339 at-bats. He surprisingly ranks fourth in
the league with 10 triples.




Looking to shake things up, Omar Minaya acquired Jeff Francoeur in
exchange for Ryan Church in a classic “change of scenery” trade on July
10.  Apparently Minaya was enamored with Francoeur’s ability to play in
a lot of games, an underrated quality in a season like this. Francoeur
actually played quite well in what was effectively an audition for a
new contract, batting .311/.338/.498 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 289
at-bats. There has been talk about buying out his arbitration years,
but the Mets would be wise to take it a year at a time with a player
who is just as likely to revert to being one of the least valuable
players in the league.




Looking Ahead:



There’s no perfect elixir to what ails the
Mets. They will have to fill significant holes at first base, catcher
and left field. Though they have shown flashes, Daniel Murphy, Omir
Santos, Josh Thole and Angel Pagan shouldn’t be expected to carry the
load at those respective positions if they want to be competitive.
After a disappointing year by Mike Pelfrey, who looked downright lost
at times, it’s imperative that the Mets find a No. 2 starter.




Not counting arbitration candidates (Francoeur, Pagan and Pedro
Feliciano, among others) the club has roughly $105 million tied up in
contract commitments for 2010. In this post-Madoff world, they will
likely have somewhere in the vicinity of $20-25 million to improve. For
an organization exposed as lacking in major-league ready prospects, it
will be difficult to upgrade via trade.




The injuries are a convenient excuse, but no manager who leads his team to a lifeless 20-48 stretch deserves to be
considered “safe.” That’s why I expect and urge the team to replace
Jerry Manuel before next season. In recent weeks, there’s been a
movement building for Bobby Valentine to return as manager in 2010.
Nostalgia? Sure. But what it reveals is a longing among the fanbase.
They want an overhaul. Not just someone who pitches every five days
(Johan Santana) like after they collapsed in 2007; not just someone who
pitches the ninth inning every couple of days (Francisco Rodriguez)
like after they collapsed again last season. They want a change at the
top. Valentine wouldn’t be a long-term solution, mind you, but they
could find a worse steward to change the culture of the clubhouse and
restore some faith heading into an uncertain future. Fred Wilpon and
company shouldn’t expect fans to line up with the same leadership in
place, no matter how much they cut ticket prices.

Felix Hernandez dealing with “dead arm”

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Mariners starter Felix Hernandez is dealing with “dead arm” and will head back to Seattle to have his shoulder examined, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Hernandez was reportedly visibly upset and left the clubhouse quickly, declining to speak to the media, Divish adds.

Hernandez wasn’t long for Tuesday’s game against the Tigers, as he lasted just two innings, yielding four runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts. The Mariners went on to lose 19-9. Hernandez is now carrying a 4.73 ERA over his first five starts.

Not much else can go wrong for the Mariners, who are now 8-13 in last place in the AL West. Mitch Haniger also suffered an oblique injury on Tuesday, joining what is becoming a lengthy list of dinged-up Mariners.

Video: Chris Coghlan dives home to beat the tag

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
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Blue Jays pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan found a creative way to beat the tag from Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in the top of the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game.

With the score tied 2-2, the Jays had a runner on first base and one out as Kevin Pillar faced reliever Matt Bowman. Pillar drove a 1-1 fastball to deep right field. Stephen Piscotty leaped in an attempt to make the catch, but the ball caromed off the wall and back towards the field. Coghlan, who was on first, made his way around third towards home. Piscotty threw home past the cutoff man and the ball reached Molina on several bounces. As Molina went low to apply the tag, Coghlan went high, leaping into the air and somersaulting into home plate to score the go-ahead run.

The Blue Jays would go on to score two in the inning, but the Cardinals answered with two of their own in the bottom half of the seventh. As of this writing, the score remains tied at four apiece.