Well, after a disappointing 2011 season you would think there was nowhere to go but up. Still, the Mets were unwilling and unable to find a way to finance top tier talent (and it showed). The season began with the ceremonial firing of coaches (otherwise known as shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic) with just pitching coach Dan Warthen and hitting coach Dave Hudgens surviving the purge.
Alderson executed his first important major-league-talent for major-league-talent trade, again with the Giants. This time he sent talented by medically troubled outfielder Angel Pagan to obtain setup man extraordinaire Ramon Ramirez and throw-in defensive specialist Andres Torres. While the bullpen woes were a major Achilles heel of the 2011 squad, the general consensus at the time was somewhat negative. After all, Pagan was coming off a campaign in which he delivered .262/7/56 with 32 stolen bases while playing a strong centerfield.
Now to be fair, Ramirez had been good as the 8th inning guy to San Francisco’s Sergio Romo. From 2008 through 2011 save for a brief blip in Boston he kept his ERA under 3.00. He looked like a quality piece in what was to be a revamped bullpen for the Mets.
The real headscratcher of the deal was Andres Torres who had never put together much of anything with the bat. Think of him as a latter day Matt den Dekker – capable when out in the field but pretty much lost when standing at the plate. In 2010 he had an outlier year in which he delivered .262/16/63 with 26 SBs, but never before (or since then) did he ever get out of single digits with power nor did he ever steal 20 bases. He was coming off a .221 season with the Giants and the Mets’ manager chose to keep trotting him out there day after day, resulting in a .230/3/35 season instead of giving up. At the time I was hoping they would do like they once did with catcher they obtained in a trade simply to get out from under the departing player’s salary.
Sandy Alderson wasn’t done, starting a pattern that became all too familiar when it comes to building a bullpen – go after quantity instead of quality. In this case it was the later released Frank Francisco and the big tattooed Jon Rausch. Neither were wanted by the Blue Jays where they formed a healthy but ineffective tandem. Unfortunately, the only thing that changed when they came to New York was the healthy part. They were joined by the likes of Manny Acosta, Tim Byrdak and Pedro Beato. Only Bobby Parnell emerged looking like someone worth keeping around (before, of course, arm troubles derailed his career). Once again it was someone Omar Minaya had found and developed exhibiting quality while the players identified and obtained by Sandy Alderson failing to deliver.
On June 1st Johan Santana delivered what great pitchers like Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden, Pedro Martinez, Jon Matlack and others could never do for the Mets. He completed the team’s first ever no-hitter.
Later that month the Mets did something never before done in the history of the game when they hit a home-run cycle – Daniel Murphy connecting for a solo and two-run homer, Ike Davis slamming a three-run shot and Scott Hairston delivering the Grand Salami.
Of course, the aforementioned Ike Davis had his greatest season, notching 32 home runs en route to what was a short-lived career in which he later had to try his hand at pitching to get back up to the big leagues.
However, the biggest story of all was the season for the ages by Minaya scrap heap pickup, 37 year old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Overcoming an abdominal tear early in the season, Dickey went on to have a 20-6 season with a 2.73 ERA and a tiny 1.053 WHIP which is doubly impressive considering he was throwing the floater up there the majority of the time.
When the season mercifully ended with a record of just 74-88, the second straight inferior season from Skipper Terry Collins, many were hopeful that they would allow him to leave as his 2-year contract was now over. Unfortunately, in this case we also saw another pattern with Sandy Alderson – someone unable or unwilling to admit his mistakes.