Let The Downslide Begin

Those swearing on the hue of their rose coloured glasses will not want to hear this, so turn your computers off.

The Mets are in trouble.

Ok, too early to press the red alarm button perhaps but nonetheless, the cracks are beginning to show in the armour of a team that raced ahead early to an impressive record and had us all swooning by mid-April.

One of the consistent factors of the early Met success beyond the hitting was that the starters were strong and were more times than not, pitching six solid innings and turning over a lead to the bullpen which allowed Clueless Willie to stick with his Heilman to Sanchez to Wagner troika.

Oddly enough, the two oldest and considered most fragile of the starters (Pedro and Glavine) have been the most reliable whilst a series of no names, has beens and minor league upstarts have either gotten injured or performed about as poorly as could have been expected of them.

Granted, no one could have foreseen the injuries to Brian Bannister and John Maine and granted, even if they hadn't been injured there's no telling they would have continued being productive. No one was shocked about Steve Trachsel pitching with his career long consistent mediocrity. And of course, throwing clowns like Jose Lima and oft-injured mercenaries like Jeremi Gonzalez against any starting lineup is an invitation to trouble. You could easily have second-guessed Omar's decision to get rid of Mr Anna Benson for the rubbish he received in return, and many did whinge long and hard about depleting the already questionable starting rotation.

But now the Mets, who begin to face the deadly St Louis Cardinals followed by the Yankees, two of the hardest hitting teams in baseball, are about to head for a tailspinning disaster with little to no help in sight. Not unless you believe the hype hope that Bannister's possible return is cause for dancing in the streets.

The rotation being a shambles was bad enough. Losing their first back-to-back road series, also annoying but even more alarming is that the bullpen, once the pride of the early Spring team, have thrown the second-most innings of any relief corps in baseball outside of a sad little franchise in Kansas City and have seen the bullpen ERA rise quicker than the water in a New Orleans river basin, from what was once a pride-inducing third best in the majors to a suddenly average 11th best bullpen ERA.

Sure, at the moment, Pedro and Glavine are still producing. The offence, which has been brilliant at times, struggled to keep pace with the Brewers but most importantly, with the likes of Lima and Gonzalez starting, you can't expect much else but a rapidly fatiguing bullpen and lots of late inning implosions.

Part of the problem is Willie's natural mistrust of Jorge Julio who, if effective, could provide a pressure release on an overtaxed bullpen rotation of Heilman and Sanchez and pray for a lead in the 9th for Wagner. Instead, Willie, on at least two occasions, was forced to put less than the best on the mound when the game was on the line resulting in at least two of the road losses they suffered on this trip.

This isn't an obituary on the Mets chances this season. It's far too early, just as the enthusiasm allowed far too many of us to clinch the NL East in April, for funeral dirges and bitterness. But buckle your seatbelts anyway because the next six games are going to cause alot of fingernails chewed to the bone, alot of hair to be pulled out, alot of bottles of beer to be emptied.

Let's just hope for the sake of the season that the character of the team, which I think it will, proves to be up for the challenge.

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