Painful end to Mets' powerhouse year
New York established itself as a force to be reckoned with
NEW YORK -- Extraordinary season. Extra painful end of the line.By the seventh inning of Thursday night's Game 7 at Shea Stadium, it became clear that the loser of this National League Championship Series would be aching into winter. By the ninth, it had turned into a Scorsese movie. Two groups of resolute men dueling with bats and baseballs in a steady drizzle. The loser's epilogue would be sad and disturbing. And so it went for the Mets, who died with their pennant-winning runs on base. "This is very tough," closer Billy Wagner said mere minutes after the Mets had drawn their last breath. "It's hard to look back on a great season when we're going home." "There's really nothing you can do to get over it," left fielder Cliff Floyd said. "You just have to let it ride itself out." It'll take a while for the hurt to fade. But when it finally does, with time the medication, a team and its fans will realize and appreciate the summer's accomplishments. The New York Mets fell short of expectations raised only by a spectacular season of resolve, during which they overcame some nagging hurdles convincingly enough to rule the NL East. These, after all, were the "That's all we got" Mets. That was the label hung on them by Floyd when key pitching injuries began to riddle their postseason prospects. Manager Willie Randolph was still riffing on that theme in the wake of the season-ending 3-1 loss to the Cardinals. "You go with what you have," Randolph said. "This team was successful because we didn't really waste sleep over who was here or who we didn't have." A strong bullpen and, foremost, a deep, powerful lineup carried the Mets over their own rotation woes, which were considerable and surfaced long before becoming conspicuous in the postseason. Randolph, with the help of pitching coach Rick Peterson and general manager Omar Minaya, did a remarkable job to earn 97 wins and a powerhouse reputation for a club that really was a tricycle in a race for four-wheelers. The lineup fit together like a perfect quilt. There were cool veterans and hyper youngsters. Speed was protected by brawn. The club's graybeards with distinctive pasts were willing to accept roles in the present, in the interest of team future. Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright comprised the second 100-RBI trio in club history, totaling only six fewer RBIs (346) than the 1999 threesome of Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo. Jose Reyes' legs and Paul Lo Duca's controlled swing lit the fuse, reborn Jose Valentin helped turn the lineup over, and Endy Chavez provided a crutch for Floyd's weak legs. But the pitching staff, which began to smudge the blueprint when Victor Zambrano blew out his elbow on May 6, was like brown shoes with a black tuxedo.
With Martinez starting off (toe) and finishing (calf and shoulder) hurt, the Mets' nominal fifth-starter slot had as many names as a phone book: Brian Bannister, Mike Pelfrey, Dave Williams, Alay Soler, Geremi Gonzalez and Jose Lima had to combine for 30 starts -- as many as No. 2 starter Steve Trachsel.Not long after Orlando Hernandez became the solution, he became part of the problem, felled by a calf injury identical to that of Martinez. The Mets persevered through all that uncertainty, and clearly did not come up short because of it. John Maine and Oliver Perez started four of their seven NLCS games, and performed admirably in them. They fell short because some of the guys who shouldered the burden for six months buckled for one week.
|"The people in the room, I'm very proud of how we pulled together all year. We all thought we would pull it out at the end, with one of those dramatic wins. Didn't happen."|
|-- David Wright|
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.