The 2004 Mets Part 2: The Bad
by: Ben Sanchez | Staff Writer - NY Sports Day | Monday, October 25, 2004
Last week we looked at some of the brighter spots from the 2004 season, ranging from the performance of Braden Looper to emergence of Mini Manny and David Wright. This week we’ll take a look at the some of the more embarrassing moments – and lord knows there were plenty of bad moments to look at this year. If you missed last week’s installment you can check it out here.
It seemed as though we may just enjoy a decent season; while hovering around .500 the Mets seemed to have a shot at respectability … until the hammer fell. Then of course there’s the controversy surrounding the unceremonious shoving of much maligned manager, Art Howe, out the door later in the season. As mentioned today we will look at some of the bad moments of 2004 and next week we will look at the top three embarrassing moments of 2004 and crown our Least Valuable Moment of 2004. So without any further ado, let’s continue with the bad moments of 2004.
The Geritol Twins
Coming into the season the Mets had two proven lefties coming out of the pen, two left-handed relievers they thought they could count on. But it seemed in the end that the only thing the Mets could count on from John Franco and Mike Stanton was for them to blow the game – no matter how large the lead, no matter who the opponent was. Along with their pitiful performance, Franco and Stanton also held back a bevy of talented relievers (Jose Parra, Heath Bell, Royce Ring, Bartolome Fortunato, and Blake McGinley) the Mets had waiting at AAA and other minor league levels.
Perhaps their crowning moment came in the middle of the August as the Mets made their final West Coast trip of the season. Recent trade acquisition Kris Benson made one of his best starts as a Met, going seven strong innings of four hit ball while only giving up one run. In relief Stanton came in and promptly blew the game, giving up a bases loaded bloop hit to the newly acquired Larry Walker. Thankfully one half of the duo, John Franco, will not return next season while Mike Stanton will be entering the final year of his contract. But unfortunately the damage has already been done, and the duo’s 2004 performances will unarguably go down as the worst season by a pair of Mets relievers.
Injuries, Injuries, Everywhere an Injury
The injury bug hit the Mets hard this season, hard and often. The first major injury would come only a few weeks into Spring Training when, during the first televised game of the year, Jose Reyes pulled up lame with a strained hammy… a familiar trend for Jose in 2004. Jose would end up missing over two months with the hammy, nearly 100 games the entire season. Not long after Scott Erickson, who figured to be the Mets 5th starter, also went down with a hamstring from which he would never really return. Al Leiter, Orber Moreno, and Vance Wilson would spend limited time on the DL.
The next big hit would come mid-August after the now infamous Zambrano and Benson trades. Over the span of a single week the Mets would DL Mike Piazza, Jose Reyes, Kaz Matsui, and Victor Zambrano. And then to add the icing to the top of cake Joe McEwing, one of the hotter bats in the line-up filling in for Reyes and Matsui, went down when he leg was broken in a collision at second. This would end up forcing the Mets field a line-up that resembled more of a AAA team than a team that was supposed to be playing meaningful games in October.
We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Defense!
One of the areas the Mets clearly needed to address in the 2003 off-season was the inexcusable performance of their defense. So it was with this in mind that they signed Mike Cameron and shortstop Kaz Matsui, promising a more athletic and better defensive team. Perhaps the best way to grade the new defense is with this stat: the 2004 Mets committed 137 errors, third worst in major league baseball.
This “new and improved” defense was lead by free agent signee, Kaz Matsui, who made a team high 23 errors which was good for fifth most by any short stop in 2004 even though he missed more than a month due to injury. Catcher turned First Baseman Mike Piazza helped compound the Mets defensive woes, showing very little progress in his first season splitting time at the two positions. The Mets will be moving Kaz to second and Jose Reyes to short stop in an attempt to improve the infield defense, but it’s going to take a lot more than that to turn around the 3rd worst defense in baseball.
Older, Slower, Whiter
Perhaps one of the most troubling things about this year’s team was the painfully obvious fact that the core of the team is getting older, slower, and maybe even whiter. Tom Glavine started out strong, pitching well enough to make the All-Star Team and make many believe he could be back … but unfortunately there was a second half to play. Tom imploded in the second half to the tune of a 5.06 ERA and only four wins; making people wonder if the first half Tom was just an aberration. On the surface Al Leiter had a decent year … on the surface. His numbers look pretty good, until you notice the he rarely pitched past the fifth inning. Al’s torn labrum and various other arm injuries that forced him out of a couple of games also don’t bode well for the 39 year-old pitcher. Then there’s our franchise player, Mike Piazza. After a scorching start to the season Mike went on a cold streak during which he went over a month without a home run. Mike had perhaps his least productive season to date and keeps us thing about that “D” word. Chances are Mike won’t be around much longer than another year … if that.
Word out of Mets camp following the Zambrano and Benson trades was that Rick Peterson had promised he could fix Victor Zambrano’s delivery and turn him into an ace in “ten minutes”. Well the clock was ticking when Victor made his first start, during which he gave up four earned runs … three came in the first inning. Needless to say Mets fans were screaming for Peterson’s head, and only two starts later Zambrano was done for the season. Meanwhile in Tampa Scott Kazmir was blowing hitters away. It’s sad to think a single statement could erase a half season’s worth of success, but that’s the price you pay.
Meaningful Game in October
When we entered this season Jim Duquette promised Mets fans that every effort would be made by the team to be playing “Meaningful games in October”. It was with the promise of “Meaningful games in October” that the Mets traded away a majority of their farm system for two mediocre starters. Well unless three games the Expos are you call “Meaningful Games” then the front office failed to come through again. The failure by the front office to follow through on their promise ended up getting Art Howe canned and Jim Duquette demoted. Now it’s Omar Minaya’s turn, hopefully he can follow through on those “Meaningful game” … or learn to not make stupid promises.
Punch and Pee Meet the Pizza Man
It was only Spring Training when Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia were involved in a skirmish with a local Pizza man outside a restaurant. According to police reports the two were extremely intoxicated and ended up getting into a fight with Eric Vidal stemming from Spencer urinating outside Vidal’s restaurant. Garcia remembered rolling around in the bushes and on the ground with Vidal. Not a very good way to make your first impression on a team you’re fighting for a spot on. Garcia and Spencer faced no charges. Regardless of their indiscretions, Punch and Pee made the team and performed admirably before being sent packing.
That’s it for the bad moments of 2004, tune in next week when we unveil the three most embarrassing moments of 2004 and crown the Least Valuable Moment of 2004.
Photo by David G. Whitham; courtesy of www.kcmets.com.