Sunday, July 20, 2008

Squandered Opportunities For The Mets

  • Reds 7-Mets 2:
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If a team squanders as many opportunities to take a lead and bust the game open as the Mets did last night, it's only a matter of time before they lose. Carlos Beltran was playing like his head was anywhere but at Great American Ballpark as he misjudged a catchable Ken Griffey Jr line drive that turned into a run scoring double and kicked a base hit into the gap as if he were imitating David Beckham to allow an insurance run to score for the Reds.
Credit is due to the Reds pitchers (especially Mike Lincoln) for wriggling out of the jams and not allowing the Mets to score with their big bashers at the plate, but this game was an example of how quickly things can turn around for a team that was streaking three days ago. During their ten game winning streak, the Mets rode great pitching from their starters and bullpen, but they also did the little things like score runners from third base with less than two outs; using outs to advance runners; taking the extra base; etc. Countless runs can be scored by doing these simple things; then a team doesn't have to hope for their pitchers to hold the opponents to less that two runs; they don't have to wait for the home run. It's what was missing from the Mets earlier in the season and what's been the main culprit of the past two losses.
One note about the Reds and mark this down: they're going to finish this season over .500; they're going to spend money in the off-season to improve and they're going to be legitimate contenders next season. They have an owner who wants to win in Bob Castellini; a smart, aggressive and successful GM in Walt Jocketty; and a manager with a strong resume (despite his detractors) in Dusty Baker.
  • Orioles 11-Tigers 10:
It's hard to take the Tigers seriously as a contender when they score six runs in the first inning and their pitchers can't hold the lead. Nate Robertson has been mostly terrible this
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season and only lasted into the third inning last night. The Tigers are only 7 1/2 games behind a White Sox team that has flaws of their own, but blowing games like this isn't going to help their cause in coming back.
The trade from last season that will be pointed to as a "mistake" might be the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis acquisition from the Marlins, but the real mistake was to trade the rising 22-year-old Jair Jurrjens for a fading Edgar Renteria. Cabrera's very young and will provide years of MVP-quality production for the Tigers; there's every chance that Willis, while not approaching his dominance of 2005, will be a solid pitcher again once healthy; but they
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could've signed David Eckstein and gotten similar offensive production as they've gotten Renteria; they could've signed the offensively-challenged Cesar Izturis and gotten Gold Glove caliber defense and carried his bat in their powerful lineup, but they got greedy for offense and traded for Renteria. Granted, the Cabrera/Willis swap fell into GM Dave Dombrowski's lap after the Renteria trade and happened quickly, but they didn't need Renteria either way and especially for Jurrjens who's starting to look like he's going to be a star.
The Orioles have been very impressive this year after purging their
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clubhouse of Les Miserables, Erik Bedard and the controversies surrounding Miguel Tejada. This could go two ways: owner Peter Angelos could prevent Andy MacPhail from clearing out more veterans because he wants to finish with as good a record as possible, or he could look at the smart moves MacPhail made in clearing out high-priced veterans and negative influences and let him continue the practice with guys like Jay Payton. Your guess is as good as mine as to what Angelos is going to do.
  • Cardinals 6-Padres 5:
The Padres waited far too long to dump Randy Wolf and now they're not going to get anything of consequence for him if and when they finally do decide to move him. I don't want
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to sound like a broken record, but all I keep hearing is how "bad" teams like the Reds and Royals are, but no one is whipping the Padres for their expansion-team roster and 37-61 record. The Reds and Royals have talent on their rosters and in their organizations; the Padres are awful, but you'd never know it from hearing how "smart" their organization is.
Injuries can be used as an excuse in some instances, but in the Padres case? Was Tad Iguchi going to account for a few more wins? Josh Bard? Chris Young? Edgar Gonzalez has filled in capably for Iguchi; Young couldn't be expected to provide more than his 180 innings and a 12-10 record; Bard isn't a difference-maker offensively. The team's bottom-line terrible on paper and in practice.
Did they really expect Randy Wolf to stay healthy and effective over a full season for the first time since 2003? Did they really expect Mark Prior to contribute anything other than some more derisive stories about how the mighty have fallen? Or anything other than attempted stat-compiling and apathy from the apparently disinterested Greg Maddux who
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doesn't want to be traded to a contender because he's happy in San Diego despite the state of the team? Or a resurgence of the fading Trevor Hoffman? I honestly believe that they're delusional in San Diego; that they think this year is a "statistical anomaly"; that they still believe, deep down, that their team, as currently constructed will return to contention next season.
They resisted dealing the likes of Wolf earlier this season because the NL West was so terrible that they hoped to stay close to the divisional lead and somehow crawl back into contention; the leaders in the division having a record under .500 is only an advantage if the lower-rung teams win their own games. The Padres have lost 18 out of 23 and are well on their way to losing 100 games. How is it that Bud Black is still there? Or Kevin Towers? Or Paul DePodesta? Or Sandy Alderson?
The Padres are becoming the epitome of a factoid (something resembling a fact; unverified----often invented----information that is given credibility because it appeared in print).
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And why isn't anyone ripping them as they deserve to be ripped for this catastrophe? The Mariners have been a punching bag and a punchline all season long, but the Padres are in a mediocre league, a terrible division and are a game and a half worse than the Mariners! Is this a case of "ignore the problem and it'll go away"? Why are the Padres being given a pass that no other organizations (most in a better position to turn things around relatively quickly) aren't?

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