Curse of the NL East

“The honeymoon period’s over, and we need to get ready for the playoffs. Maybe this opened our eyes a little bit. Maybe we’re not the team we want to be.”

--David Wright, on wakeup calls and honeymoons

I think this could rather have been expected, no?

Dropping games like flies ever since clinching to the likes of the Marlins and the Nats the Mets returned to Turner and Hooch Field last night to face a Braves team which had had its birthright denounced, it's annual NL East Championship celebration negated, it's divine right thwarted.

12-0 with Oliver Perez on the mound? We got off easy!

Sure, he pitched a five-hit shutout his first time against the Braves as a Met in Shea but those were the days back when everything was going right for the Mets, when Perez Prado could have mambo'd a five hit shutout against the Braves.

Nowadays with the focus on next week rather than this one, Oliver Perez returned to the role of mere mortal, allowing 6 runs, 7 hits and 3 homers in a humiliating loss that solidified any question anyone had about Oliver Perez worming his way into the postseason rotation.

So ok, Perez pitches poorly, no surprise but good gawd, where has the hitting gone and in particular, the clutch hitting? Over the last dozen games the Mets are hitting .190 with runners in scoring position and .243 generally.

We can forgive the Mets for wanting to ease off the throttle, kick back and autopilot the team into the postseason. We can forgive losses to the Marlins and the Nats both teams difficult to feel inspired about with the NL East wrapped up.

But the Braves? Shouldn't this have been about rubbing their snouts in the fact they ARE NO LONGER NL EAST CHAMPS? Shouldn't this have been about giving our rivals and the perennial champs an emphatic kicking just to remeind them to stay down when they're down and to make way for the new kings?

There's no reason to go pointing fingers but Carlos Beltran is hitting .167 in September. Carlos Delgado is hitting .233 in that same period. And whilst no one else is slumping so noticeably, you can sense, in the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, in the lack of spunk when they're down by a few runs, that the Mets simply aren't taking this seriously.

Should they be?

Willie Randolph hasn't used the regular starting lineup, the postseason spectacular, since the Mets clinched and he's likely to be the bullseye if this all goes quickly pear-shaped and the Mets find themselves ruining a brilliant season by virtue of having taken their foot off the gas and forgetting where that pedal was when the games count.

I've maintained in the past that Art Howe, yes that stoical statue of malaise, could have managed THESE Mets to the NL East title. That wasn't the hard part. The hard part is taking them beyond where the Braves have gone, i.e. beyond merely clinching the NL East and sputtering in the postseason.

It's too early to start talking about a curse but if the Braves could only manage one title over 14 NL East Championships, perhaps the NL East winners have a little bad karma to overcome.

Perhaps the Mets will be the ones to break it or perhaps, like the Braves, they will go down in the postseason as disappointments, meek little lambs for the slaughter of the wolves who've lied in waiting all these months licking their lips for a shot at the champs.


sanchez said...

What about Heath Bell? 6 runs in 1 1/3 innings? Is he warming up for the winter leagues?

Jaap said...

For a guy with a 7.20 ERA since the All Star break, I believe his winter started in July...