If someone told you an hour before Wednesday night's game that the Mets would get six innings of two-run ball from their 35-year-old knuckleballing starter recently recalled from the minors, hit an inside-the-park home run and turn a triple play, you'd probably feel pretty good about their chances of winning the game.
You'd also be unfamiliar with the 2010 Mets.
The Mets lost 5-3 to the Nationals and it isn't even surprising at this point. The only surprising thing is that the team can come with such an impressive confluence of events to keep you entertained on the way to a loss. Those highlights obscured a five-hit effort by the offense, a meltdown in relief and the general lifelessness of a team that seems no more interested in winning than the 1919 White Sox.
There are bigger problems with the Mets as an organization than Jerry Manuel. He was handed a highly imperfect team in Spring Training, a team that should have people surrounding Citi Field with pitchforks and torches demanding Omar Minaya be sent into exile, but it's hard to argue that he could have handled this team any worse than Manuel has handled it so far this season.
Wednesday night was merely a microcosm. Manuel pulled R.A. Dickey after six innings and 98 pitches in a tie game so that he could A) turn to a bullpen that's been overused more than the jokes Dickey heard about his name in middle school and B) use Alex Cora as a pinch hitter to lay down a sacrifice bunt that moved Henry Blanco to second base. The writing was on the wall right there and if you were surprised that Raul Valdes and Fernando Nieve blew the game then, again, you're just unfamiliar with this bunch.
As bad as those moves were, though, they were nothing compared to benching David Wright against a pitcher he's hit to the tune of .334 with four homers and 10 RBIs. This lineup simply can't afford to lose his bat, even when his bat is scuffling, and they really shouldn't be feeding the growing notion that somehow Wright is responsible for how bad this team has turned out to be.
We went over this earlier this week, but it's no secret that Wright isn't the same guy he was in past seasons. In particular, he's a very different hitter since he got beaned on August 15th of last season. The Wall Street Journalhas the numbers on Thursday and they aren't pretty. Since the beaning, Wright has hit .251 and his strikeout rate has dramatically increased against righthanded pitching. Yet he's still the most productive hitter on a team that needs productive hitters. There's a benefit to helping him correct his problems, but it's impossible to see how benching him fits into that approach.
Wright was upset but didn't snap at Manuel. He simply raised a question.
"If (Fernando) Tatis gives us the best chance to win, I'm all for it."
The problem is that Manuel actually thinks he does.