By Ernie Palladino
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It would be a wonderful thing if we could just blame the umpires for R.A. Dickey’s less-than-Cy-Young performance Wednesday night.
Perhaps the snipping of his daughters’ friendship bracelets, given to him as he prepared to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the abused women of Mumbai, unhinged Dickey enough to cause him to float a bunch of knuckleballs. Float them just right so Scott Rollin, Todd Frazier, and Jay Bruce could deposit them over the fence and deprive baseball’s most lovably ancient sage his 16th victory.
That would make talking about the Mets a lot easier, certainly. Blame it on crew chief Jim Joyce, who delayed the game not once — to have a trainer cut off the bracelets to make Dickey compliant with the rule banning any sort of wrist-wear — but twice, as he visited the mound a second time to advise all that this was no Pine Tar Game gambit; the Reds had nothing to do with it.
But it wasn’t the umps at all. Joyce may have helped. But his interruptions proved simply a collective pebble on the pile of stones that has covered Terry Collins’ club since the All-Star break.
We see it over and over again. Bad things happen to losing teams. Bad plays. Bad breaks. Bad everything.
Much bad has happened to the Mets, whose 8-4 win over the Reds last night doesn’t erase the fact that they’re six games under .500, and losers of eight of their last 12. And when the NL East-leading Nationals hit town tonight, they’ll bring a whole different set of rotten with them.
Collins knows it. The problem is, he doesn’t quite have a solution to it. After Dickey’s implosion, the best he could do was promise a shakeup. Sit a few guys down. Put some new guys in there.
Pretty boilerplate stuff all around.
Perhaps the six-man rotation Collins plans to use the rest of the season will help the starters. While Dickey remains on his regular rest, the longer respite might help folks like Johan Santana and Chris Young overcome whatever aftereffects last year’s shoulder surgeries left.
Thursday’s winner, Matt Harvey, is just a youngster and the Mets want to cap his innings at 165 or 170. With 132 innings pitched already, the extra rest could allow him to pitch a regular turn until season’s end. And if he keeps turning in performances like the 7 2/3 innings of one-run, four-hit ball he threw against the Reds, they’ll have to keep him going just to give the season some life.
Catcher Kelly Shoppach made his Mets debut Thursday night after coming in from the Bobby Valentine Boston Municipal Zoo Tuesday, and could add some offense. But he might be a liability behind the plate for a while as he learns the pitching staff.
Jason Bay was in left field instead of Jordany Valdespin and contributed, for a change, a solo homer in the sixth. Daniel Murphy sat. And Scott Hairston made a rare start against a right-hander.
Collins can make as many changes as he likes. In fact, he reportedly wrote out four lineups between Braceletgate and Thursday’s game. The changes obviously did some immediate good, but these things tend to be short-term. They won’t remove him from the fact that this is not a good Mets squad. And they probably won’t get much better when Collins gets around to resting David Wright and Ike Davis this weekend.
None of this is Collins’ fault. He hasn’t turned into a bad manager all of a sudden, not after a first half where he used every magicians trick in the book to smoke-and-mirror his team to a winning record.
Now, the Mets are simply a losing team. They lose 1-0 games on last at-bat homers. Their best pitcher gets rocked after having his sentimental ornaments removed from his left, non-pitching, wrist. Even in a wonderful victory for Harvey, there was Frank Francisco making a mess of the ninth inning.
They’ll have their occasional triumphs like Thursday night from here on out, as all teams will. But for the most part, unless Collins and his lineup changes can produce some sort of miracle, that stone pile will only continue to grow higher and higher.
What do you think is the biggest problem for the Mets in the second half of the season? Let us know below in the comments section.