Monday, June 26, 2017

Staggering Mets Stagger More-Staggering Giants

By Jeff Kallman

Put it in the bank and watch it collect interest. The reeling Mets had to win two of three at minimum against the deeper-reeling Giants this weekend past in order to keep even a modicum of self and New York's respect. Dropping two of three would have been more in line with this season's teetering.

So what do these Mets, the National League's most vivid traveling insane asylum, up and do? They swept the Giants in San Francisco, outscoring them 24-8. The Giants have looked bad enough all season long with their issues and lack of answers. This weekend now past, the Mets made them look like the last of the St. Louis Browns — without Satchel Paige or Midget Gaedel. These Giants should only aspire to be that clever.

"These are tough times, no getting around it,. I've been around a long time, this is as tough as I've ever been around," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy after Sunday's lack of contest, after the Mets throttled them with a winless pitcher thrown into a spot start and a reserve catcher hitting for distance twice, out-homering the entire Giants club 2-1 for the set.

"The baseball gods are really testing this group," Bochy lamented. "Enough is enough."

That'll be for the baseball gods to decide. But you can understand Bochy's frustration. Only the rebuilding Phillies have a worse record than these Giants, but the Phillies have a known reason. It isn't easy for a team and a manager who've won three World Series in eight seasons to go down this way. Try not to tell them that this is also the first time the Giants have lost 12 out of 13 in a quarter century.

"I don't feel it's that complicated," said Buster Posey, the Giants' catcher and essentially their field leader. "We have to pitch better, play better defense and swing the bat better." Sounds so simple a child of five could do it. Somebody send the Giants a child of five, then.

It's gotten bad enough that Madison Bumgarner — missing in action since late April after his shoulder met the road in a Denver dirt bike mishap — is said to be hitting off a tee as part of his rehab. What the hell, the guy can hit as well as pitch, and the Giants need all the help at the plate as they can find.

The shame of it seemed to be that, all things considered, the Giants should have been able to use the Mets as a confidence rebuilder. The Mets came into San Francisco with their own excess baggage, the latest of which was veteran shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, returning from the Mets' own considerable disabled list, asking to be traded rather than be compelled to play second base.

That's in a season in which Noah Syndergaard kindly declined an MRI on a barking shoulder after being scratched from a start and the Mets, rather than march him off to the doctor post haste, allowed him to start a couple of days later, watched him take a small ton of abuse from the Nationals en route a 23-5 burial, then watched him walk off the mound under a trainer's escort, with what proved a torn lat muscle and about a two-month trip to the disabled list.

A season in which Matt Harvey had enough trouble without being brought to his knees by a lost potential love, causing him to miss the proper channels for calling in ill or indisposed, not to mention a three-game team suspension, after seeing the girl he thought he had a real chance with cavorting with her once-and-returning boyfriend when he picked up a newspaper.

A season in which they lost closer Jeurys Familia to a suspension tied to a domestic violence accusation his wife was in no hurry to pursue further than an original 9-1-1 call, then lost him for the season, possibly, after surgery for a blood clot in his shoulder. A season in which they could be missing Michael Conforto, the best of the younger Mets position players, for who knows how long after he suffered a wrist contusion when Sunday's Giants starter Matt Moore plunked him in the sixth.

A season in which the Mets have gone from postseason sure shots to questions as to whether they need to retool or rebuild. If it's the former, the Mets have some veteran pieces they can move for some less aging parts while deciding, finally, to put it all in the hands of their youth, particularly the betters among their pitching. (They could begin with Cabrera, who still has some value, and who should be told, in essence, that if he can't take or move one for the team, he's useless to them.) If it's the latter, the question marks start looking like Whack-a-Mole moles and the Mets have often missed those.

Forget about feeling good about Mets farm star Tim Tebow's promotion to the higher level of A ball. Tebow's charisma and likability don't make him a baseball player; anyone else hitting the way he has thus far would be lucky to stay at the lower A level. Take something solid from Jacob deGrom's mastery of the Giants Saturday, deGrom showing himself the Mets' real ace, shaking off whatever ailed him, working on fine tuning himself, and pitching up, up, and away to places where Giants bats needed appointments to meet what he threw.

Take something solid from Rafael Montero's Sunday spot start, in which he finally put the changeup he's been developing to serious work. The Giants couldn't hit him substantially at point blank range, and they were probably lucky to get five hits off him. Maybe Montero can step up bigger than he had prior to Sunday, perhaps into the rotation all the way.

But while you're at it, take a moment to offer a prayer for the Giants, whose competitive window may be closing at last after a long enough but glorious enough run. It'll be fun to remember those three World Series conquests and the pennant races in which they stayed tall otherwise, but it's going to hurt to think that they, too, need a remaking and remodeling. Nothing lasts, in baseball and elsewhere, but that run was something for San Francisco to cherish.

The Mets, two seasons from their own run to a World Series they could have won but didn't, should be even half that fortunate.

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