11:52 am Jul. 16, 2012
It was a disastrous weekend for the New York Mets.
They were swept by the Braves in Turner Field, site of many horrors through the year. They lost on Friday and Saturday night because of their starting pitching and bullpen. (The former has been a team strength all season, the latter an almost comical failing.) And Sunday, they lost 6-1, with their starting pitching and hitting failing them.
It's just one series, but the losses lay bare a number of concerns about the current team, and make it harder for General Manager Sandy Alderson to justify adding talent to this year's team at the expense of future prospects or additional salary.
The loss on Sunday came in large part due to the subpar performance of Johan Santana, who allowed six earned runs over five innings. It is impossible to know for sure whether the decision to let Santana throw a career-high 134 pitches in his no-hitter on June 1 has caused his slump in form, but he posted a 2.38 E.R.A. in 11 starts through his no-hitter, and a 5.67 E.R.A. in seven starts since.
And Saturday's starter, R.A. Dickey, allowed five runs over five innings. In four starts since his back-to-back one-hitters, Dickey has a 5.19 E.R.A. Prior to that, his season E.R.A. was an even 2.00.
Dickey and Santana may yet snap out of it and revert to their early-season form. But it's not crazy to think that they're reverting to something more sustainable after their outstanding starts.
If that's the case, and with Dillon Gee out for the year, the Mets need reinforcements more than ever to contend in 2012.
The argument for pursuing those reinforcements, which they'd need to do now with the non-waiver trading deadline just two weeks away, has more to do with their position relative to other teams than it does with the particular weaknesses of the current roster.
The Mets entered the weekend a half-game out of the playoffs, via the wild card, and just 4.5 games behind the Nationals for the National League East division lead, their other path to the playoffs. They are now 3.5 games behind the Braves and Pirates for the two wild card spots, trail the Dodgers as well, and are tied with the Cardinals. They trail the Nationals, who they begin to play Tuesday, by 6.5 games in the division.
The Mets have repeatedly played well in 2012 following their most significant bouts of adversity. They were swept by the lowly Astros; they rebounded by winning two of three from the Diamondbacks and sweeping the Phillies. They lost two of three to the Phillies, the bullpen blowing both in ugly fashion; they went out and swept the Cardinals, Santana making history in the opener. They were swept by the Yankees; they went out and crushed the Rays, outscoring them in a 29-9 rampage.
If they can do the same thing this week in Washington, Alderson will be right back where he was before this weekend's disaster in Atlanta. But as of now, it's looking like one of those situations in which the Mets will want to hold onto their assets and start planning for next year and beyond.