They’ve done it time and time again in 2011. When they fall behind, the Mets find a way to claw back into the game and give themselves a chance to win. But over the past week, not only have their comebacks fallen short, they’ve been unable to get off the mat. While playing a better caliber of competition, they also appear to be worn out.
Whether a result of revenue sharing or other factors, in Major League Baseball today, “parity” has created a large class of mediocrity,
save for one or two dreadful teams, and three or four elite teams. The Mets fit into the mediocre category, as do winning teams like the Tigers and the Diamondbacks. If it weren’t for injuries and the Madoff-fueled trades of Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets may have had a winning record by now as well. The Houston Astros clearly fit into the “dreadful” category.
The elite teams are few and far between. The New York Yankees, The Boston Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Phillies are surely elite. The Texas Rangers are borderline, having feasted on a weak division. But the elite teams category may have a new member. The Milwaukee Brewers. With Zach Grienke pitching like an ace again, and Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder raking their way across the National League, the Brewers have won nine of their last ten, and have opened up a convincing lead in a division that seemed to be up for grabs six weeks ago.
The Mets found themselves in a deep hole in each of the three games against the Brewers this weekend. They couldn’t overcome a 6-1 deficit against the underrated Shawn Marcum on Friday. Trailing 7-1 on Saturday, the Mets seemed poised to pull off another scrappy comeback. They scored five runs in the 7th to pull to within one, then took the lead in the 8th following a game-tying double
by Josh Thole, and a two-run home run by Angel Pagan. But in the 9th, like Balboa vs. Creed in the original Rocky, the Mets simply didn’t have enough against a superior opponent, despite the fact that they never gave up. Depending on your perspective, the depleted Mets bullpen blew the game in the ninth, or the talented Brewers lineup rallied to win. Finally, on Sunday, the Mets wasted a solid outing by R.A. Dickey, and a game-tying two-run homer by Lucas Duda. The bullpen, combined with shoddy defense, gave up four more runs en route to a 6-2 Brewers victory.
In the face of injuries, trades, and sub-par performances, the Mets have survived, at times, on guts alone this season, getting remarkable performances by unsung heroes, cast-offs, and AAA players asked to grow up sooner than expected. But in the face of an elite team, scrappiness isn’t enough. The Mets simply lack the talent to compete with teams like the Brewers in 2011. They couldn’t even compete with the surprising Diamondbacks last weekend. In between the two series, they took two of three from New York’s mediocre counterpart, the San Diego Padres, in a series that defined “parity.”
Now the Mets limp into a series with the elite Philadelphia Phillies, followed by a series with the Atlanta Braves. Didn’t like what you saw this weekend? Get used to it. It’s not for lack of effort, this team plays hard every day. The Mets simply don’t have the horses to keep up with the best teams in the league.