9:30 am Sep. 21, 2012
A horrific second half reached its logical endpoint for the New York Mets Thursday night at Citi Field, in a 16-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies that officially eliminated the Mets from playoff contention.
As a Philly-fan friend who paid his own money to go to the game last night emailed, almost apologetically, "I sincerely think I was there to see rock bottom last night."
There was the lineup itself, featuring out-of-place fielders like Justin Turner at shortstop and Lucas Duda in left field. The pitcher, Jeremy Hefner, is a fringe major leaguer, and the Mets had taken advantage of his replaceable nature by shifting him in and out of the rotation all year. The Phillies were still clinging to remote playoff hopes; the Mets had long since stopped playing for anything other than fourth place.
It went downhill from there.
Poor Hefner failed to retire a batter before manager Terry Collins lifted him with the Phillies already up, 4-0. After the game, Hefner seemed on the verge of tears as he addressed reporters.
"I'm embarrassed for myself," Hefner said at his locker following the game. "There's a lot to learn from this. Hopefully, if I get another chance, then I'll try to perform better."
For his part, Collins did nothing to take incoming fire for his players. When asked if they have quit, Collins responded in his postgame press conference, "You'll have to ask them. I have my own opinion. And I'm not going to express it publicly."
It's a line of thinking that makes a simple problem needlessly complex. The Mets don't have the personnel to contend. To suggest some kind of malfeasance on the part of the players, who are playing for jobs next season, avoids blaming the sheer lack of talent on the Mets organization.
Meanwhile, the Mets have two weeks left in their season to show David Wright the kind of progress that will convince him to sign a contract extension with the team, assuming they even have the means to offer him one. The Mets hold a team option on Wright for 2013, but Wright has said he won't negotiate in-season next year, so the Mets can either find a way to extend him this winter, or risk losing him for nothing, like Jose Reyes, next winter.
That 4-24 record in the team's last 29 home games probably doesn't help the cause.
And probably most disconcerting is that while there are reasons to be optimistic about 2013's starting rotation--primarily, Matt Harvey, R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese--they've compiled this record with all three pitching, and pitching well. The budget to add the offense they'll need to stay afloat, let alone thrive, simply isn't there.
As Wright succinctly put it at his locker following the game, "Losing sucks."
Wright, at least, doesn't have to put up with it much longer.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
A rollicking 10-7 win over the Blue Jays Thursday night put the Yankees a full game up on the Orioles.
No Hakeem Nicks? No Ahmad Bradshaw? No problem, Giants crushed the Panthers, 36-7.