By Jason Keidel
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If you pull the thermometer out of our local baseball clubs, they have inverted readings.
If healthy, the Yankees have all the offense you need, even in the lumber-loaded world of the American League.
The Mets, however, have all the arms, enough pitching to hurl two clubs into October. Monday night aside, when Steven Matz is your fourth- or fifth-best option, you’ve got an industrial-sized rotation.
But their soft-serve approach at the plate is arching a few eyebrows. The Mets entered Monday’s game against Miami batting an anorexic .180. That’s the worst in Major League Baseball, as is their .529 OPS. Among the walking wounded are leadoff man Curtis Granderson (.042) and prodigious prospect Travis d’Arnaud (.067). The Mets have just two home runs, tied for worst in the majors.
No matter how robust their rotation becomes, the Mets’ fledgeling staff can’t carry a team that doesn’t hit, literally.
Oddly enough, the one player the media and masses fretted over the most is hitting the best. David Wright, deep into the back nine of his career and plagued with a back problem (spinal stenosis) that has no real prognosis or cure, is batting a neat .316 with a .458 OBP.
Wright may be the only reason the Mets aren’t dead last in runs scored per game. They’re just 28th, while bringing home a whopping 2.8 runners a night.
The Mets have just 49 total bases in six games, a .251 slugging percentage and twice as many strikeouts (52) as walks (24).
Yes, it’s April. Pitchers still kick the frost off the mound. Hitters still approaching the plate looking like they’re about to rob a liquor store. Frozen tobacco juice makes ice slicks on the dugout floor. (Unless Dollar Bill DeBlasio sends you to prison for felony possession of Skoal.) Clouds of chilled breath still puff from the fans’ mouth, while they pour a little Xmas cheer into their hot coffee. Not even Mike Francesa has retired his renowned snowblower.
Old timers tell us the season is truncated, to whack April and September off the calendar. In April they’re getting their bearings; in September they’re either resting for October or resting for the rest of the year. But the games still count, and the Mets should be careful not to let too many slide under their young noses.
Meanwhile, Yoenis Cespedes continues to have his mail forwarded to Page Six. After spending his offseason making it rain at the local exotic car dealership, making his commute a de facto fashion runway, he has been lethargic on the diamond.
In fact, there was a clever moment during a recent telecast, in which the Mets’ holy broadcasting trinity called out Cespedes for his “sleeping” remarks. As if scripted by a room of writers, as Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez sardonically mused over golf and hibernation, Cespedes launched a two-run homer at Citi Field, after which Cohen called Cespedes’s shot a “wakeup call.”
No, don’t panic. We New Yorkers are innately and irrevocably cynical. We assume one win is a World Series make, and one loss sends us spiraling into baseball purgatory. It’s April, a sleepy time for baseball.
But if the Mets keep hitting like this, they will need more than an alarm clock to snap them to attention and back into contention.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel