Image your team’s staff ace is Mark Maroth, the league leader in losses (21), earned runs allowed (123), and home runs allowed (34). Image your team’s number two starter is Jeremy Bonderman, second in the major leagues in losses (19), and second in the American League in wild pitches (12). Imagine your team’s first baseman/cleanup hitter is Carlos Pena who leads the American League in errors at his position (13), hit a robust .248 with an impressive 50 RBI. Image your team’s number three hitter – the player who gets the most at bats during a season, outfielder Dmitri Young, is fifth in the American League in strikeouts (130).
If your team was the 2003 Detroit Tigers, you do not have to use your imagination. They lost an epically bad 119 games that season. They managed to break their old record of losing 104 games in a season in 1952. A tough year all around and terrible top to bottom. An ideal example of the worst franchise of a particular season.
If the Detroit Tigers are the poster team for bad franchises, the 2009 New York Mets are not the worst franchise in the 2009 season.
It is nice is that I do not have to rehash the litany of injuries the New York Mets have suffered this season. Loyal Homer did that accurately. The amount of hitting the Mets have lost is extremely high. They lost their table setting speedster in shortstop Jose Reyes, their cleanup hitting slugger in center fielder Carlos Beltran, and their RBI/home run producer in first baseman Carlos Delgado. They lost their prize offseason acquisition, closer Francisco Rodriguez, for nearly a month, too.
Sure, the Mets stink this year, but injuries have the most to do with that. Losing that kind of production will cripple any team. Injuries have nothing to do with how the organization is run either on the field or in the front office. It is a reflection of bad luck… bad luck on a grand scale for these hapless Mets.
It is impossible to argue that general manager Omar Minaya has avoided controversy this season. The tumult within the upper echelons of the organization is obvious when Tony Bernazard, Vice President of Development, was recently fired for what amounts to conduct detrimental to the organization. If the public is hearing about an issue in the front office, it is easy to say that the front office is out of control. However, Minaya apologized for his own actions, and promptly fired the individual who also made the organization look bad (in his own unique style). Is it the best front office in baseball, in performance or organization? Clearly it is not. But, it is not the worst, either.
In fact, it is possible to make an argument for the San Diego Padres, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Washington Nationals as the worst franchise in baseball. The Mets have managed 53 wins this season – 13 better than Washington, seven better than Pittsburgh (who traded away every good player they have any may not win another game this year), and four better than San Diego who constantly invent new ways to stink (and should have more losses if their division was not so bad).
It is easy to blame the manager, the players, and the front office. But a keen look reveals the real issue – injuries. The Mets do not have the worst record in baseball (there are nine worse teams than them). They did not trade away every good player to hamstring them for the coming seasons, either. Sure, the Mets stink. But the worst? No way.