Falling short once again

I’ve let time pass and decided I’m ready to write this post. It’s hard to watch your team come so close to the postseason and not close the deal. It’s particularly tough when your boys have it in their control — all they have to do is win — and it still gets away. But as time passes, as the days go by and we get deeper into October, we get further from the season and reality sets in. Baseball fades as teams drop from the playoffs, football rises, and sad thoughts of this year become hopeful wishes for next year.

This year’s fall wasn’t as bad as last year’s. It didn’t hurt as much. While I hoped the Mets would erase the bad taste from 2007, this year’s team wasn’t as good. It didn’t have the depth to overcome all the injuries. Bringing back Moises Alou probably wasn’t a good idea from the outset, but losing him wasn’t the worst thing to happen. But losing Angel Pagan and then Fernando Tatis, well, that exacerbated the problem. John Maine’s absence in September wouldn’t have been crippling if Billy Wagner hadn’t gone down and blown up the entire bullpen. With Wagner on board, that bullpen lines up much better and fewer games get blown; more close losses instead to go the Mets’ way and — perhaps — they edge out the Brewers by a game, instead of the other way around.

The 2007 Mets were on top of the NL East — and the National League — for the bulk of the season. They led until the final week. They were the better team. The 2008 Mets, though, weren’t as good as this year’s Phillies. Nevermind the postseason, where anything can happen (note the 2006 Cardinals and ’07 Rockies, to name just two recent hot-at-the-right-time teams).

What we can hope for, as Mets fans, is that this year taught management a lesson. Luis Castillo is a black hole in the lineup and at second base. The bullpen needs an overhaul. Oliver Perez, for all his inconsistency, should probably be brought back. It’ll be easier to fill that fifth-starter’s position than both slots four and five. Ryan Church can be an everyday right fielder so long as he isn’t concussed, and while Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans could probably be a serviceable left-field platoon, an everyday replacement there would probably be a better move.

I’ll use another post to go through the free-agent options, but one thing is clear: The Mets are probably going to have to open the checking account to bring in Francisco Rodriguez or Kerry Wood. A closer is needed, and there aren’t many available. Brian Fuentes may be had in a trade, but if the fans got on Wagner just because he put two runners on base before getting the last out, what will they do when Fuentes turns two-run wins into one-run wins? Or worse?

And I’d love to see them revive a possible acquisition from three years ago: Rafael Furcal to play second base. Castillo would have to be traded (and his contract paid for), but I’d rather spend throw money at the solution than throw losses at the problem by starting Castillo everyday.

So now we’re left with another offseason of waiting, watching, wanting. The Phillies are up, 2-0, in the NLCS and appear headed to the World Series. Those fans will be even more obnoxious and unbearable if they get there. As for us, we’ll just have to anticipate the Winter Meetings, wait for the New Year and long for Spring Training and then the coming of Citi Field.

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