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The Mets free fall has begun, a few months later than most baseball analysts expected, but the team is starting to fall on hard times now that they have traded All-Star Carlos Beltran and closer Francisco Rodriguez. The team has also lost their two best hitters this season to injuries in Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy. While Reyes is expected to return at the end of the month there is no guarantee it will stop the bleeding. The team has lost six of its last seven and the Mets now sit four games under .500.
One piece of good news that has recently unfolded was a personal milestone from a very unlikely Met. Jason Isringhausen’s career started with the Mets in a cloud of hope as a part of Generation K with Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson.
Izzy went 9-2 in his first season with the Mets with a stellar 2.81 ERA. He was immediately compared to Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver, the two best home grown Mets aces in franchise history. Of course, the bottom then fell out as injuries took their toll on all three members of Generation K. Izzy went 9-19 in his next three seasons with the Mets before getting dealt to the Oakland A’s for Billy Taylor.
Izzy was moved to the bullpen where he went on to dominate for the next eight seasons. He won a World Series, picked up a career-high 47 saves in 2004, and dismissed his legacy of being a bust. However, that wasn’t enough for the Mets 44th round pick in the 1991 draft. He had more to prove.
Izzy returned to the Mets this off-season with absolutely no idea whether he would ever even make the roster. “I had no idea… nobody knew what was going to happen,” said Isringhausen after the recent home stand. “I just try to go about my business the right way and help the team anyway I can and try to get outs when they call on me.” Izzy has certainly handled his job the right way. He has offered some wisdom for the younger pitchers and offered some brilliant work out of the bullpen while doing so. However, the big opportunity did not come until days after the All-Star break when the Mets announced they had dealt their star closer K-Rod to the Brewers.
Since that transaction, Izzy has returned to his old role of closer. In 12 appearances, Izzy has picked up two wins and seven saves. The seventh save, which took place on August 15th was the 300th of his career. It’s been an incredible ride for the soon-to-be 38-year-old hurler. He returned to where he failed and has been a pleasant surprise.
Unfortunately for Isringhausen, reality will now set in. With the Mets out of contention for a spot in the post-season, the team is looking towards the future and they will turn to flamethrower Bobby Parnell for ninth inning duties. Izzy, a true professional, has been one of Parnell’s biggest supporters even during his recent struggles. “It won’t be his last rough spot either… he’s got the stuff to do it… You can take care of the little things and the rest kind of falls in place.”
The young bust is now a wily veteran who has redeemed himself in the eyes of Mets fans. Whether he gets another save or not for the rest of his career, Isringhausen has accomplished what he set out to do. He went about his business the right way and got outs when needed. However, his lasting contribution may be the professionalism that he brought to the clubhouse and the lessons that he provided to a new a new generation of Mets hurlers. Izzy did alright as a Mets hurler.
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It seems like the baseball world is just waiting for the Mets to finally fly its white flag. It is clear that at 19 games behind the Phillies in the NL East and more than 10 games behind the Braves for the Wild Card, there is no real shot at making the postseason. Nonetheless, the Mets have played extremely well on the road, keeping them within .500 through 117 games into the season.
The tide may have finally turned in recent days. The Mets fell twice to the last-place Padres at home and will now have to take on the first place Diamondbacks on the road this weekend.
It’s also the way that the Mets have fallen that hurts the most. On Wednesday, a well-pitched game by Jon Niese was wasted thanks in large part to shoddy defensive by 21-year-old shortstop Ruben Tejada. The only reason Tejada was even in the field was the most recent hamstring injury to star shortstop Jose Reyes.
One positive that Mets fans can focus on is the continued success of rookie Lucas Duda. The 6’4, 254 lbs. slugger drove in four RBI in the four-game series with seven hits. Though his season statistics are solid with three home runs, three triples, 12 doubles, and a .279 average through 62 games, his teammate Justin Turner tells us that we have not seen anything yet. “When he gets into a hot streak, the ball just sails over the fence in bunches,” said Turner, who played with Duda in the Minor Leagues.
Despite the fun name and slugger’s role, Duda is soft-spoken and modest, though his confidence shines through, “It will come.” he says. “The more comfortable I get the better I’ll perform.” Duda has good reason to be confident. He is hitting .348 since the All-Star break with three home runs and a .427 OBP.
While Duda is playing first base in place of the injured Ike Davis, his future home for the Mets will likely be in the outfield. After all, the Mets have no shortage of first basemen with both Davis and Daniel Murphy both posting big numbers before each landed on the DL with season-ending injuries.
As usual, it is anything but easy to be a Mets fan. However, there is some good news as the season crawls to an end. Both Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda look like keepers, though finding a position for each will be a challenge. Jose Reyes seems happy to be with the Mets and could end up extending this off-season in a long-term deal. Jason Bay has progressed a bit from his early struggles, and even Justin Turner may be a short-term fix at second base.
The Mets still have plenty of issues to sort out. They could use another big arm in the rotation even while assuming Johan Santana returns as a front of the rotation hurler. Bobby Parnell does not look like a closer. Then there is the gaping hole in centerfield that Angel Pagan has not been able to fill this season.
For those who prefer the glass half full, consider that the Mets have lost their first baseman and their backup first baseman to injuries. David Wright and Jose Reyes have both spent weeks on the disabled list. Johan Santana has not thrown a single pitch for the Mets this season. Jason Bay and Angel Pagan are having down seasons. The team traded away its best all-around hitter and its ace closer, and yet they sit just one game under .500. In other words, for Mets fans there is just enough positive to still believe.