This was inevitable. The only difference between the Mets "historic" collapse and say, the Brewers, is that the Mets collapsed at the wrong time - at the end of September, with the hope of their fans at their peak. And now it'll haunt them all offseason. It might cost a few people some jobs. So who is to blame?
Willie Randolph has gotten a lot of bad press for not being able to stop the collapse, but I'll let him slide. I hate to blame the Latino in management, but I have to say Omar Minaya is the biggest reason for this collapse. I've been saying this since last year's trading deadline, but this Mets team has been playing with fire for too long. Their pitching staff was always shaky for a team harboring legitimate dreams of winning. I wrote that Omar should have pulled the trade for Zito (giving up Lasting Milledge) last season. You don't get too many opportunities to win a championship. It's hard to blame starting pitching for the Mets failure to beat the Cards, but they really should not have been in a seven-game series with them. The difference an innings-eating starter like Zito would have made might have been enough to get the Mets to the Series.
This year Omar again failed to address the critical need, one that was amplified by Pedro's shoulder injury, the one that cost him four months. Omar's solution? El Duque. Sorry, but think the Mets bullpen might have been more productive in September if they hadn't been pitching 4 innings a game since April? I should back that up with stats, I know, I know.
My take is this: This Mets team was never built for the long haul. They benefited from the slow start by the Phillies and Braves due to key injuries (particularly to their pitching staffs). At the end of the season, things finalyl balanced out in the most awful way for the Mets:
You wouldn't get far...far...far... just a waste of time...you wouldn't get far...far...far...
We made our picks here, and they weren't very good: from top to bottom: Yankees-Blue Jays-Red Sox-Devil Rays -Orioles.
We could take some solace in that we accurately predicted the Yankees making the playoffs, but that's shooting fish in a barrel. We did stick with that prediction even when the Yanks were 15 games out of it, and laid down some bets to support that. 4-1 odds for division (which we lost); 7-1 for the AL title, and 10-1 for the WS championship. We're still in the running for a big payday if the Yanks pull either off.
Anyway, the end result was a terrible overestimation of the Blue Jays (decimated by injuries, especially to B.J. Ryan), and underrating the Sox a bit. Though the reality is we do think if the Yankees hadn't slumped for the first two months, they would have won the division.
Our most embarrassing prediction ever: Pavano would have a better season than Beckett. Ouch. Come, laugh at SML!
We were right in predicting that Dice-K would wear down in the second half of the season - that's inherent in realizing that he was pitching in a five-man rotation for the first time in years. We called JD Drew "unreliable and injury-prone", which again is just shooting fish in a barrel. We predicted that A-Rod would be MVP by far - dead-on! We said that Bobby Abreu would also have a big season - overall his numbers are pretty decent (he finished with 100 RBIs and like 200 runs), but if you take away his first awful first two months, you'll see that he has been the secret second MVP of the Yankees' offense.
At the end of the day, the best I can do is grade these predictions a "C". The only reason it's not a total D is the MVP call for A-Rod and the other small predictions that came through.
Here are my AL Central and West preseason predictions.
Predicted finish for the West: Anaheim, Rangers, Mariner, Oakland.
Actual finish for the West: Anaheim, Mariners, Oakland, Rangers.
We obviously overrated the Rangers. But we were right on that the Mariners would do better than the A's, which was not a popular prediction in the spring.
Final grade: B
Predicted finish for the Central: Twins, Tigers, White Sox, Indians, Royals.
Actual finish for the Central: Indians, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Royals.
Again, we underestimated the Indians badly. We mocked those who picked the Indians in the spring, calling it the "hot pick to win". Sabathia, we noted, "hadn't improved since his rookie year six seasons ago". He may have turned the corner this year a bit... he is the front runner for the Cy Young Award. His only true competition for the award is fellow starter Faustino Carmona, who wasn't even in the rotation at the beginning of the spring.
And we swore Johan Santana was going to win like 23 games and the Cy Young. Seriously, only 15-13? Someone has to get him on the Yankees or Angels, please. If Wang can win 18-20 on the Yankees every season, than Santana should win 25.
Anyway, final grade is C-.
Yikes. Let's see how we did with the National League.
Predicted finish: Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins, Nationals.
Actual finish: Phillies, Mets, Braves, Nationals, Marlins.
Predicting the Phillies and Braves to finish ahead of the Mets took some guts. Well, we were half-right... the Braves never fixed their bullpen problems. Mike Gonzales and Rafael Santana were too injured for the early part of the season, and they finally waived Bob Wickman (it still surprises us no one took a chance on him) and replaced him with Santana. The Phillies would have done better had it not been for early injuries to Bretty Myers, and the move to the bullpen for him left a hole in the rotation that took a while to close. Cole Hamels finally emerged as the staff ace, and Jamie Moyer continues to be the most surprising 40+ starting pitcher ever.
We said the Marlins "wouldn't win more than 72 games", and by golly, they finished at 71 wins.
Finally grade: B+.
Predicted finish: Cards, Cubs, Reds, Astros, Brewers, Pirates.
Actual finish: Cubs, Brewers, Cards, Astros, Reds, Pirates.
Well, the Cards made a small run for it, but collapsed under the weight of Ankiel's HGH news. The Brewers' early success blindsided us, but eventually they collapsed. Still, we took a lot of heat for not giving them the right amount of respect, and therefore... it's hard to give this more than a C+.
Predicted finish: Padres, D-Backs, Giants, Dodgers, Rockies.
Actual finish: D-backs, Padres, Rockies, Dodgers, Giants.
Really? We didn't see the Rockies coming on strong, forcing a tie for 2nd place and the wild-card? To be honest, I did think they were going to do well... I just didn't put it in writing, I guess.
Anyway, props to me for seeing the D-Backs doing well: "Okay, we like the D-Backs this season...they might make the playoffs."
Indeed. "A-" for us, just on that basis.
Also, note that we predicted that the NL West winner (the Padres/Diamondbacks) would win the World Series. We still believe that the Dbacks and Padres are the two best teams in the NL. The Padres would be our pick for the NL title, if not for the fact that they have to play a game today against the Rockies to continue, then have to beat the Phillies in the first round. Without more than one start from ace Jake Peavy. If they can get past the first round, they'll be hard to beat, with Peavy and Chris Young anchoring the rotation.
But that's unlikely. Therefore, our money goes on the D-backs to beat the Cubs and whoever to win the NL title. They'll play and beat the Yankees in the World Series. The Yankees will beat the Indians; and the winner of the Sox-Angels series (probably the Angels, but don't count the Sox out).
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