(GAME DATE – Sep. 16, 2019) — The Montreal Metros, who were 2018 Bull Cup champions, have been eliminated from playoff contention with 2 weeks left on the schedule.
The Metros have compiled a 66-82 (.446) record, on track to have their worst finish by win percentage since 2001, when they ended that 80-game season 35-45 (.438).
Metros fans, and front office staff are positively shell-shocked, and are trying to grasp just where things went off the rails this year. Much of their 2018 roster remained intact during the offseason, and in fact many of the departing players after last season were in declining years, or were otherwise unproductive “dead weight” on the roster, such as 37-year-old 3B Alejandro Reyna, who was picked up by Minneapolis and has hit just .167 so far this year.
Montreal even added talent like SS Corrosive Joseph, who won a Bull Cup with Ohio in 2016, and had been one of that team’s ironmen, playing 98 of 100 games last year, and batting .274. So far this year, Joseph has been reliable again, hitting .282 and scoring 51 runs. Defensively, he has been important, turning 87 double plays and assisting 347 outs.
The Metros also added slugger Gula Kareem, who left New York for free agency after 2018. He had a huge year with the Dragons, slashing .283/.329/.570 with 19 home runs and 49 RBIs in just 66 games, sharing catcher responsibilities as a platoon mate Mokuo Kajioka. While his hitting tapered off in Montreal, he has nevertheless been a consistent run producer, scoring 40 times and batting in 62, despite a drop in batting average to .242.
The team already boasted an MVP caliber (he won it in 2018) lead off man, Orlando Garza, though he has spent more time as cleanup this year, where his average has shot up considerably. But aside from slugger Jose Ramirez, home run production cratered, and the team has not been able to hit the ball into the bleachers as often as they would like. Currently with just 105 team homers, they rank last in the Lake League.
And then there are the pitching woes. Despite signing 2-time Sandy Koufax Award winner Judson Martel to a massive $140 million, 4-year extension, the right-handed ace has failed to outmatch his opponents behind the weaker offense, and has sunk to a 10-12 record this season. It is his first losing season since 2010. His WHIP shot up to 1.46, a level it last saw in 2009. The contract extension curse hit Martel hard, and he is suffering one of his worst years ever, despite chasing Toronto’s Knuckles Malone for the Lake League strikeout title.
It hasn’t just been Martel marring the rotation. Former Nomads bullpen fixture Jamie Jones, who signed as a free agent with Montreal on opening day this year, has proven he was not ready for a rotation spot, going 8-17. His WHIP of 1.81 has meant a constant streak of base runners and an ERA of 6.10, with just over 3 runs supporting him per game. Ron Alder has been a bright spot, but pitching has been the Achilles heel of the club all season.
The worst part about missing the playoffs this year in Montreal is the bruising of the club’s pride. It snaps a 13-year consecutive streak of playoff appearances, a period that included 4 Bull Cup championships and 10 first-place finishes.
On the bright side, if history is any guide, Montreal may recover quickly. After their terrible 2001 season, they shot back up to a 1st place finish, going 51-29 (.637) the very next season.