SPORTS BEAT – PADRES EXPOSE METS FLAWS

The Mets’ 2012 postseason dreams pretty much perished when they dropped 12 out of 13 games in a malaise that began just before the All-Star break and continued until they left for a western road trip two weeks ago.

Ironically, the traditional late July-early August Arizona-California swing, which has generally done in the Mets in recent years, actually seemed quite hospitable to our Flushing heroes on this go-round. They split four with the Diamondbacks and then took three out of four from the Giants. Both teams have legitimate postseason aspirations.

You couldn’t blame the Mets if they felt good about themselves when they took on the lowly San Diego Padres to finish off their trip. Naturally, they lost two out of three to the NL West cellar dwellers.

I was visiting San Diego, a great place to go during a sweltering New York summer, and I caught last Friday’s game, which truly summed up the Mets’ season. The Amazin’s got terrific starting pitching from RA Dickey but let him down with shoddy fielding and a frustrating inability to move men around the bases. Anytime a team can muster just one measly run despite accumulating nine hits, it’s clearly in deep trouble.

Adding insult to injury was that Padres reliever Huston Street recorded the last four Mets outs to earn the save. It has been widely reported that the Padres offered Street to the Mets in June when it became clear their bullpen was an Achilles heel, but Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson passed because he didn’t want to increase payroll. Signing a relief pitcher is always a crapshoot, but Street remains one of the best. This was a case of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Petco Park, with its lush park behind the outfield, wide seats close to the action and fine dining choices including Hodad’s, home of San Diego’s best burger, is a joy to visit even if you’re not a big baseball fan. For one, everyone gets “Blueprint,” a free booklet with articles about the Padres and their opponents, and photos of the home players. The format is admittedly borrowed from Playbill, which has long done the same for New York theatergoers. It’s a shame neither the Mets nor the Yankees, who play just a few miles from Broadway, don’t offer a similar product.

Dick Enberg, who has won more Sports Emmy Awards than any other broadcaster and has been the Padres tv voice for the last few years, told me that he would not be in Flushing calling the 2012 US Open for CBS. “It has just gotten too touchy to live out of a suitcase and be away from my family for two weeks,” he explained.