As someone who was born and raised in Vietnam for 18 years before coming to the U.S. for college, I have encountered quite a fair share of culture differences during my two years here. For example, in Vietnam, there's hardly any scene of a couple holding hands in public, whereas making out in front of a crowd is nothing to be ashamed of here in America. But while I can understand differences like this, there are some that I just cannot make any sense of. One of them is a horrendous lack of patience among the average Americans. Now, I don't want to over-generalize here, I'm sure many of you who happen to be reading this are calm and collected folks by nature, but the vast majority of Americans whom I've encountered during my two years in the U.S. are severely lacking in this regard.
It seems to me as if Americans who were born into a well-to-do family (that's the case for most college students here) with everything readily available at their disposal are often unable, or reluctant to accept the reality that there will be bumps on the road ahead. As I've noticed in many of the American students here, whenever something goes wrong, the very first thing they do is to complain about it. And instead of carefully breaking down exactly why it has gone wrong, they opt to go for the shortest possible solution, which most of the time does not work.
Same goes for sports fans and writers. When their team struggles, they immediately call for the manager's head without knowing whether or not he is the main reason for failure. If a player slumps, he is always subjected to boos instead of encouragement. While I fully understand the pressure to perform under the limelight of professional sports, athletes are just human beings after all. As fans, shouldn't we be patient with them and give them every chance to succeed? If they fail to live up to our expectations then that's a different story, but initially let just all be patient. And for a team of young players who aren't exactly favorites in a star-studded division this year, the Mets should be given a pass, at least in 2012, for their inevitable struggles.
So from a foreigner's perspective, I would like to begin what I hope will eventually be a weekly series here on AmazinAvenue named "This Week in Mets' Overreaction" (to go along with This Week in SNY and This Week in Mets Quotes, among others), depending on the feedback and criticism from other readers. Without further ado, here comes the first installment.Following a flying 4-0 start to the season that led to a number of fans scrambling for World Series tickets, the Mets came crashing down to Earth and back to the .500 mark for the first time this season following two consecutive series losses.
On the pitching side, the rotation could not sustain the excellent performance they showcased throughout the winning streak. It all began when Johan suffered the shortest outing of his career, giving up five runs in just 1.1 innings of "work". The day after, those soaking wet balls out of Dickey's hand (
no pun intended) failed to dance, resulting in 8 earned runs and ending R.A.'s impressive streak of 15-something quality starts. The Nose and Big Pelf managed to cease the bleeding a little bit by surrendering a combined four runs across 14 innings, but spot starter Miguel Batista resumed it immediately with six runs in 3.2 innings. Gee lasted till the seventh inning in the nightcap of the doubleheader yesterday but gave up 7 runs in the process. What's even more baffling is the fact that Mets pitching gave up all these runs to the Braves and Giants, teams that don't necessarily scream offensive juggernauts. The bullpen, on the other hand, apart from blowing a 3-run lead in the 9th inning against the Giants (which is rather unfair as the game should have been ended earlier had Kirk caught Belt's shallow fly ball), was passable. Closer Frankie Frank has been shaky of late, but his 8.53 ERA doesn't reflect his solid 11/4 K/BB, so expect improvement here. Rauch has yet to give up an earned run. Parnell has been excellent so far. Byrdak is still doing his thing against lefties. Other than Ramirez who is still questionable and Batista who is more of a liability than asset , this bullpen will be just fine.
Other than starting pitching, the reason why the Mets are losing of late could be largely attributed to the offense's inability to put runs on the board despite getting a plethora of runners on base. Over at MetsmerizedOnline today, Joe D had a piece on this. Don't get me wrong, I'm just as frustrated as the next guy having to watch Mets hitters failing to get a run in from third with less than two outs or leaving the bases loaded, but I'm not quite sold that a return to the signature HACK! approach of the Franc0-fer and HoJo era that Joe D proposed at the end of his article would necessarily be the right remedy. If history is any indication, last season the Mets ranked 2nd in the NL with a .335 OBP and 6th in runs scored. And that is with Ike missing almost the entire season, Beltran being traded midseason, Wright missing two months with a back injury and played ineffectively through it for another. This year, the Mets picked up right where they left off, posting the NL's fourth-best .330 OBP, but are only 13th in runs scored. This is due to the struggling middle-of-the-order bats in Ike, Bay and Duda, who as a group are hitting just .111 with runners in scoring position and a gazillion of strikeouts. You can't get runs in by striking out. Now, homeruns are nice, but the essence of scoring runs is getting runners on base and drive them in, and the Mets are doing just fine with the former but still struggling with the latter. Why would you mess up with something that's working well in a desperate attempt to fix another? Just be patient and wait for the 4th, 5th, 6th hitters to break out of their slumps and the runs will come. High OBP is always an asset, why fix something that ain't broke?
Similar to the early season winning streak, the sample size of this mini-slump is too small for anyone to correctly conclude anything about this Mets team. The rotation has not been great of late, but they are certainly not going to give up five-plus runs day in and day out. So there's no reason yet to panic over a week's worth of sample size.The bullpen over the course of a full season will have its ups and downs, so it would be delusional to expect shutdown performances on a daily basis. We can certainly hope so, but head-scratching meltdowns like the one in the 9th inning against the Giants will happen at one point or the other. To avoid being labeled as a downer, here's some reason for optimism, through the first 16 games of the young season, the Mets as a staff has posted a 8.05 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9, good for a 3.63 xFIP and 7th in the Majors.
On offense, Ike won't leave 1690345 men on base each game, nor will his .139 BABIP figure to last much longer. The league now seemed to know how to exploit his weaknesses, but I'm fairly confident Ike will be able to adjust and when all is said and done, be just fine. Same goes for Duda. And the entire offense. Mets hitters as a group figure to be above average, and I firmly believe that's exactly how it would turn out over the course of a full season. A paltry .222 average with RISP will rise.
The key here, is to remain patient (see what I did there?)