The west coast trip the Mets took to open up the second half of the 2010 season was going to be make-or-break.
It broke them.
It may be shocking just how poorly they played (offensively, mostly) on the 2-9 trip...but really it's less of a shock than a reality check.
The Mets have been wildly inconsistent this year. They actually have a winning record against teams better than .500...but for every time they've beaten the San Diego Padres (they're 3-3 against the team with the best record in the National League), they've struggled against the worst in the league - they're 5-7 against the Nationals and now 0-3 against the Diamondbacks, who without the sweep of the Mets would be challenging Pittsburgh for the bottom of the National League.
When you think about the times the Mets have gotten hot this year, it was against bad teams like the Indians and Orioles, average teams like the Twins and the Tigers, and even teams that are better than them like the Padres and even the Braves and Phillies.
It's hard to figure out just who the Mets can or can't beat - but it doesn't matter who the Mets play when they don't hit, and that's the bottom line with these streaks. When their key guys hit, the Mets have won, and when their key guys don't hit (along with the other players who don't usually hit), the Mets lose and look terrible doing it.
And that's why the Mets are back to a game over .500. Back to third place, just a half-game ahead of the 4th-place Marlins. 20-33 on the road. 2-9 on their road trip, and just 4 wins in their last 17 games overall.
It's why there are rumors of trades with the Royals, and rumors of changes in the coaching staff. All of which will come too late. The Mets didn't just cost Howard Johnson his job as hitting coach (I'm sure he will get the ax sometime before the Mets return to action on Tuesday), they also eliminated any good feelings they built with their exciting start to the 2010 season, and put themselves in a really tough spot to try to salvage the season.
It's almost funny to see the Mets scrambling to change coaches to try to snap out of a funk. It's a strategy Omar Minaya has tried numerous times these past few years. It's never worked.
This might be his last chance to shuffle the coaches...before he and Jerry Manuel are part of the shuffling. Two years ago, in his first game as manager, Jerry Manuel was challenged by Jose Reyes when Manuel took him out of a game in Anaheim.
On Sunday, not very far from that spot, R. A. Dickey barked at Manuel in Los Angeles, protesting Manuel's decision to take him out of the game. It made me wonder just how much the Mets players are still buying into their manager - if they ever did. Between those two public blow-ups, John Maine had his share of disagreements with the manager. It would have been nice to see some of that aggression used against the opponent, rather than within the team. Maybe that's just what inspiring managers do.
John Maine is done for the year after another shoulder surgery. He probably won't be back with the Mets after his contract expires at the end of the year.
It's probably the end of the line for Jerry Manuel as well.