Tuesday, September 15, 2009

2009 trainwreck season makes Mets fans long for a September collapse

After the painful September collapses of 2007 and 2008, the Mets have officially been eliminated from playoff contention with 18 games to play. Of course, the Mets have pretty much been out of any playoff discussions since the middle of July

As painful as the past two collapses have been for the Mets, this season has been much harder to watch. At least the '07 and '08 teams were competitive; this year's squad has been a disaster. Instead of having to suffer through just one pathetic month of a collapsing team, this year's squad has simply been a trainwreck.

In 2007, the Mets were at least in contention to defend their 2006 division title until the season's final game. As depressing as it was to watch Tom Glavine give up seven runs and not make it out of the first inning in his final start as a Met, handing the division title to the Phillies, at least the Mets provided some memorable moments throughout the season.

Last season, the Mets hoped to atone for the '07 collapse in Shea Stadium's final season. Instead, 2008 brought another depressing September slowdown, culminating with another heart-breaking loss to the Florida Marlins to eliminate the Mets in the last game ever at Shea. There probably aren't many worse ways that Shea could have gone out, but at least the last game at the stadium was meaningful.

You won't be able to say the same about the last game of the first season at Citi Field. This season, the Mets entered a July 3 series in Philadelphia only one game behind the division-leading Phillies. The Mets were swept in that series and went on to freefall out of contention.

Granted, the 2009 Mets have been ravaged by injuries, but most teams who fall out of contention early have enough talent in their minor-league system to at least call up a young prospect or two in August or September to give fans a look at the team's potential future.

Although it is impossible for a team to prepare for losing just about everyone in its starting lineup at some point in the season, the players who have been called on to replace Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado and the rest of the Mets who have spent considerable time on the disabled list have simply been nowhere near major-league ready.

The Mets already lost two of their top prospects for the season in outfielder Fernando Martinez and starting pitcher Jon Niese. Beyond the two of them, the Mets really haven't been able to make any exciting call-ups because their minor league system is so depleted. It has been nice to see catching prospect Josh Thole make a few appearances, but that's just one position.

There is little to no hope coming from pitching prospects, as late season call-ups have included journeymen Elmer Dessens and Nelson Figueroa, as well as 40-year-old Japanese rookie Ken Takahashi. Those names don't exactly get fans excited for already-meaningless September games.

As hard as it is to watch a team blow a seemingly-certain playoff berth in the final weeks of the season, the bottom line is this: only one team can win the World Series every year and only eight teams make the playoffs. For many teams, the season is pretty much over by June 1, or in the 2009 Mets' case, around July 20. I'll take a September collapse over a September with a starting pitching rotation featuring the likes of Figueroa, Tim Redding and Pat Misch any year.

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