Mets Will Be a Great Fade This Season
by Robert Ferringo - 03/10/2008
As a die-hard New York Mets fan, September of 2007 should have been one of the darkest months of my life. It wasn't a choke. It wasn't a fold. It wasn't a collapse. What happened to the Mets in that Black September was something much darker, much more diabolical.
The Mets were seven games up on Philadelphia with 17 games to play and pissed it all away, losing, 8-1, on the last day of the season and allowing the Phillies to sneak into the postseason. That horrific turn of events also fulfilled The Prophecy of Phillies shortstop and alleged sodomite Jimmy Rollins. It was brutal, and you don't just get over something like that. That type of choke seeps into your soul. It imprints itself on your DNA. It's enough to cause grown men to wake up in the dead of night, sobbing, and questioning their own purpose. No, you don't just forget something like that. Ever.
But those weren't the worst days of my life as a fan. The reason: I made a mint betting against my favorite team and saw my bankroll pad itself with every blown lead, stranded runner, and soul-numbing loss. I put aside my allegiance to my team in favor of allegiance to my wallet. And, as most traitors and mercenaries usually are, I rewarded handsomely.
And by the looks of how things are shaking out for my Mets this year, that one-month ATM was only the beginning.
Too many fools in the mainstream media and in public gathering places across this great nation still believe that the Mets are a contender in the National League in 2008. New York is still being picked by a majority of folk to win the N.L. East, and some poor souls even believe the Mets will represent the Senior Circuit in the Fall Classic. Hey, as a fan I would love to see nothing more than for the mainstream to be right and for me to be wrong. But as a handicapper I hate to be the one to pass this news on: it's not going to happen. Not even close.
The New York Mets are a mess. And if you play your cards right you will make a lot of money this year on their ineptitude. The Mets are going to win some games, don't get me wrong. But the bottom line in baseball betting is VALUE. It's not just knowing who is going to win; it's knowing how much it's worth laying out to risk a loss.
I believe that anyone with the sand, time, discipline, and cash to wager against the Mets in every single game they play this year is going to make a decent chunk of change. If you can pinpoint one other club - either one that you can bet to win or to lose, consistently - then you are set to have yourself a fantastic and profitable season.
I'm a practical man. Or at least I can be at 4 a.m., with a pint of Cachaca coursing through my veins and a Thompson Center .22 resting on my shoulder. And there are more tangible reasons as to why the Mets will be a mockery again this season than just a hangover from last year. Here are the best reasons I could come up with:
1. They will be overvalued on the money line.
The Mets were one of the least profitable teams in the Majors least year, on par with such cretins as the Chicago White Sox and Florida Marlins. And they were the Best Team In Baseball for at least six weeks of the season. The main reason: their money lines were at least 30 cents heavy every night because they are a New York team. That's not going to change. So even if they were a strong, sound, on-the-upswing team this year they would be a tough club to turn a buck with because of the math of having to lay 150 to win 100 a majority of the time.
There should still be some good situations to play on this team. They are great after an off day and they have hammered left-handed pitching over the past two years. But all in all, these guys are going to be one of the worst chalk bets in the league and would have to win about 95 games just to turn a minute profit.
2. Their bullpen is still weak.
As long as I can remember, the Mets were always blessed with a solid middle relief. Always. Guys like Turk Wendell and David Weathers and Scott Strickland always made the sixth through eighth innings enjoyable. It was one of those things I always took for granted. Not any more.
New York's bullpen E.R.A. for September of 2007 was 5.34. And as it stands right now the Mets still employ a pen of has-beens (Scott Schoeneweis), never-was's (Pedro Feliciano), and never-will-be's (Ambiorix Burgos). Factor in The Curse of the Mets Closer and this shaky back end is going to consistently undercut solid efforts by the starters. You also have to consider the mental toll that a piss-poor bullpen can have on a team with an already flappable psyche.
3. They don't have a solid No. 6 and No. 7 starter.
Why would they need a seven-man rotation? Because Pedro won't show up until around the All-Star break, or whenever games start to mean something, and because El Duque is 55 years old. That's two-fifths of the Mets rotation right there. After Johan Santana (who you won't be able to back for less than -190) the Mets have John Maine and Oliver Perez. Solid, but not worth what you're going to have to pay for them as a bettor. Beyond that it's Piñata Pelfrey and… no one. That's not the makeup of a monster rotation. And if their starters aren't giving them six- and seven-strong then we go back to the leaky bullpen.
4. Their outfield sucks.
Right now the Mets starting outfield is Carlos Beltran (streaky), Ryan Church (who?), and Endy Chavez (not durable). That's not exactly Strawberry-Dykstra-McReynolds, and it's not good enough to win the division. That's a very average trio, and with Chavez starting that limits the New York bench. All around I would say that puts them in a bad spot and the productivity they get from their corner outfielders is going to be dwarfed by N.L. East rivals. I could get into the sabermetrics of it, but most of you would rather gnaw on your own hand rather than read about Chavez's projected OPS.
5. Carlos Delgado.
He seems like a great guy. I'm sure he'd be a blast to take to Barbados for a whoring and drinking binge. He'd be a great wingman and he might be elected mayor of some tiny province during the course of a Spring Break. But the guy is finished, and might as well be on the bar stool next to Mo Vaughn at the Foxy Lady as we speak.
Delgado is already battling a hip injury, but he should be ready for Opening Day. Regardless, if he's gimpy through this season that may doom him to repeat last year's horrendous season (his .258 average and 24 home runs look a lot more impressive than they actually were), while his salary (the Mets are on the hook for between $25-$32 million for the next two years) would prevent Omar Minaya from finding a suitable long-term replacement. We've already discussed how they're going to be getting subpar numbers out of their corner outfielders. Mix in that Delgado is producing at about two-thirds of what Ryan Howard or Mark Teixeira will do this year and that lineup is finding a lot of holes in it.
6. Is there enough leadership?
Paul Lo Duce may have been a degenerate gambler. He may have been an egomaniac. He may have been on roids. But the guy was all heart on the diamond and he'll be missed in the locker room. The chemistry on this team is fragile. Jose Reyes showed a dark side during The Collapse last year. David Wright and Carlos Beltran are more Lead By Example-types. And it's tough to take Delgado seriously if he's hitting .220 in early June. So where is the leadership going to come from? I don't see it. And unless someone takes control of the clubhouse (sorry David, but it's part of the package) then I don't think they can move past the Nightmare of 2007.
7. Bad karma.
The Mets, as a collective consciousness, froze in the face of Destiny in the autumn of 2007. And, unfortunately, I had seen that look before. Only the first time it was in the face of an Adam Wainwright bender. Lest we forget that it was just 18 short months ago that the Mets suffered another Cruel twist of Fate. For in October of 2006 it was these same Metropolitans that lost a crushing Game 7, at home, in the late innings, to the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. That was the beginning of the end.
This team has something hidden in the shadowy corners of its locker room. You want to back that in a big spot? I know I don't. And I don't feel like you can overestimate the negative trajectory of their karma. And if you don't think that you can handicap karma, well, to that I say, "You gotta believe".