September 21, 2007

Where Do We Go From Here?

Yes, we are still in first place, by 1.5 games. No, it’s not too early to panic. Yes, there’s plenty of blame to go around. No, it’s not only Willie’s fault. Yes, we’re going to try to understand what needs to happen for us to remain in play-off contention right now, as well as in 2008. No, we don’t have a crystal ball (although right now, I’d bet I could get up a collection amongst all of our readers to visit a really, really good fortune teller right now!)

It’s easy to blame manager Willie Randolph for all that ails the Mets these days, and that wouldn’t be totally fair.

It’s also easy to be angry with Omar Minaya for importing the likes of Mota, Schoeneweis and Lawrence, while Bell and Bannister, 2 former Mets’, flourish, and that, too, wouldn’t be totally fair.

Managers and General Managers don’t play the game – we’ve all heard that so many times before; however, they do acquire the players, and decide which of these players play, and when, and that certainly goes a long way towards deciding just where to lay the blame from a season that has, to date, gone horribly askew from expectations.

Let’s start, however, with the players themselves.

Which Delgado is Which?
Carlos Delgado has been injured all season. At 35, he’s at a crossroads in his career, as we don’t know whether to expect the slugger (albeit somewhat diminished) from last season, streaky but explosive, or the injured first-sacker who can no longer be relied upon for his usual 35 homer, 100 RBI –caliber seasons? No one has the answer to that question yet, as we are simply wondering if we do make the play-offs, will Delgado ever return to regular action or will we simply see a platoon of Green and Conine? If Delgado is healthy, our line-up improves, as does our bench. If he doesn’t return, what can we expect next season? First base used to be a position where every team had a slugger perched at; now, it’s a lot easier to boast of a hard-hitting third baseman than it is a first baseman. Perhaps Mike Carp could be the answer, but I’d hate to go into 2008 with Carp as our only viable solution.

Will the REAL Jose Reyes Please Stand UP!
In July, the MVP award in the National League was already awarded to Reyes: too bad for him, and our team, that the award isn’t given until October. Reyes has been a shell of the player he was, and we have to wonder whether he has left too much of himself on the base paths in his quest for stolen bases. His fielding was still solid, until recently, while his batting average and ability to get on base has plummeted. Even though I truly dislike Jimmy Rollins (because he plays for the Phils, no other reason), I now have to admit that Rollins is having a much better season, start to finish, and is certainly a more viable candidate for the MVP award right now than Reyes is. It’s sad to say, but it’s true. Jose is young, has all the natural talent in the world, and brings a joy to playing the game that is short of only Pedro and Jeter for being the most infectious in the game. However, consistency is the name of the game, especially from the lead-off hitter, and Reyes needs desperately to return to his earlier season form in order for us to have any chance at a long run in the post-season. Unlike Delgado, Reyes’ career is just beginning; also unlike Delgado, we don’t yet know what we can expect as an “average” season from Reyes. If he gets hot over these next 15 games or so, things could change in a heartbeat. Let’s hope he does!

Can ANY of Our Starters Go Longer Than Six Innings?!
Look at the top two starters on the Cleveland Indians – Sabathia & Carmona (a rookie) have both pitched over 200 innings this season – no WONDER their 2 set-up men, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez, have been so dominant! Each of them has ALSO pitched many times for more than an inning, and each has pitched many times in back-to-back games. However, when you ask less of your bullpen, you get more. Simple equation, yet one that has truly eluded us this season. Our starting rotation has been far better than many so-called experts had predicted, but where we still fall short is in the LENGTH of games the starters are able to pitch. I know we now live in an age of the “specialist” in the bullpen, but having at least one starter who consistently can get to at least the 7th inning would truly help relieve some of the burden from this over-worked ‘pen. Omar is to blame for importing some less-than-stellar talent, but Willie, in my opinion, is even more to blame as he continues to use them and, seemingly, at the most inopportune times. If Maine and Perez, both mid-to-late-twenties, can take us to the 7th inning consistently, we can be a little less stressed about our bullpen prospects for next season. Since that’s not likely to happen under Willie’s tutelage, the only hope is that another youngster, such as Pelfrey, along with the finder of the fountain of youth, Pedro, can lead this charge next season. Pedro will be watched for probably the rest of his career, but his ability to throw strikes means that he can go deeper into games without fear of scaring any medical staff. Pelfrey is young and at some point has to be allowed to open it up. If he ever does get that third pitch, being that he has excellent mechanics and is quite tall, one can envision an almost Randy Johnson-like career for him, sans, hopefully, the injured back. O-Hern is not going to be a 7 innings plus workhorse at his age, and if he comes back next season, there’s always the possibility that Tom Glavine can continue his amazing career and be a lock for 5-6 innings each time out. That STILL doesn’t put us into the rarified air necessary to dominate not just the league but the game next year. Until we shore up the bullpen, and don’t count on Sanchez coming back as strongly as Pedro has, the only other way to receive the necessary help we’re looking for is to have our starters rear back and begin pitching longer, more effective, and more consistent games. I’m not unhappy at all if next year’s staff was Pedro, Tom, Perez, Maine and Pelfrey. I’d love it a LOT more if somehow it included Santana (and wouldn’t we ALL?!!)

It might be a Knick or Giant’s cheer, but it’s certainly become more than a blip on any Mets’ fans radar screen of late. David Wright makes the routine plays, and his range allows him to get to balls most third basemen wouldn’t be able to reach. However, this same range can also be his curse, as he often ends up booting or throwing away balls that it looked like he had control over, which has also served, in some voters’ eyes, to lessen his chances for the N.L. MVP this season. Wright’s defense aside, the entire team has been prone to making boneheaded errors that result in too many needless runs, again over-taxing the pitching staff (both starters and relievers). Errors happen, especially in the infield at Shea where every ground ball is an adventure. However, everyone is paid very well to keep their minds in the game at all times, and we’ve made far too many needless errors, often in a single game, to be able to justify any mental lapses right now. At crunch-time, which we’ve been in for the past month, we can no longer afford to lose a game because of inadequate defensive plays. THIS is an area where Willie and his coaching staff need to take a more hands-on approach, whether it’s extra infield practice, shagging more fly balls, or whatever it takes to ensure everyone’s mind is on their game at all times. As Mickey said to Rocky, “there IS no tomorrow!”

Back To The Joe Mac Days?
In the days of yore, three-score and seven years ago…okay, I’m cutting the crap – back in the days when Joe McIlvane was our GM, it seemed as though every Mets’ prospect was highly over-rated…the better to trade with and acquire someone else’s talent for nothing seemed to be our mantra. Whether it was Jeffries or Ryan Thompson, we always seemed to either trade for or develop someone whose talents on paper far exceeded their talents on the field. Could this be the same situation we find ourselves in today, vies a vie our young pitchers? What else could be the explanation for not playing Humber, not bringing up Mulvey or waiting until today to promote Carlos Muniz? Is Omar scared to expose Humber or Mulvey to the majors, for fear that neither one is as good as advertised, keeping their values high for any potential trade this off-season? What other reason could make any sense? The Red Sox threw a rookie, Clay Bucholz, into their mix and all he did for them was throw a no-hitter! What are we scared of? If we want to make the play-offs, it’s GOT to be an all-hands-on-deck approach. If it’s because Willie is only going to go with those players who have taken him this far, well, he should take a better look at his roster as since May 1, we are only 1 game over .500 and no single player has been consistent from the start of the season until now, including MVP-candidate David Wright.

What harm could throwing some young blood out there do? I don’t want to hear the argument about inexperience hurting us during a pennant race, as that could work either for or against us, depending on each individual’s make-up. Every player gets into the game, wanting to reach the top of their sport, and I have never heard a player complain that they received a World Series ring even though they were only a part of the team for 2 or 3 months (and it would be quite insincere if they DID say it). I also don’t want to hear the argument that Willie can’t manage a team if he has to resort to playing minor leaguers who could be “wild cards” – that didn’t stop him from blowing out Joe Smith’s arm earlier this season, and we unfortunately know exactly what to expect from the likes of Scott Schoeneweis and G. Mota – NOTHING!!! Perhaps Muniz could have brought us something earlier…and now, we’ll never know. And for that, I blame BOTH Willie and Omar.

In Omar We STILL Trust
Omar is still my favorite GM of all time, and that’s not going to change any time soon. In spite of T-Shirts that you might see from some “other” blog about the Mets, WE were the first to write “In Omar We Trust” and we stand behind that sentiment! (We are also not bandwagon jumpers, as we've been complaining about Willie's game management since the start of his tenure and the start of our blogs.) Yes, this past off-season didn’t bring us exactly what we could have used in the bullpen, but Omar sure did put together a great bench, especially from mid-to-late season acquisitions Anderson and Conine, and injuries have take a great toll on our roster this season, more so than any other season in recent memory. However, the Phils have utilized 13 starting pitchers this season, and the Yankees have had to bench all-star starter Mike Mussina while relying on minor leaguers to revitalize their staff. No one has had it perfect this season, as more injuries have been prevalent this season and one-time stars have floundered and fallen far lower than anyone would have anticipated – just look at Joe Mauer of the Twins!

That being said, this team is still Omar’s responsibility, from the lowest minor leagues through selecting the major league manager, and I have to think that even his love of Willie Randolph, the person, has to be over-shadowed by his disappointment in Willie Randolph, the manager. I know that, next season, I’d rather see Paul Lo Duca back as our catcher, but I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening with Willie still as our manager. I’d rather see Davey Johnson, himself not known for his game-management, take back the helm of this team at this point, let alone be ecstatic if we were somehow able to convince Bobby Valentine that the sushi in New York can be almost as good as that which he eats in Japan. Neither one of these men will be seen in blue and orange next season, so how about going out on a limb and promoting HoJo or bringing back Gary Carter? Only Omar would have the cajones to try such a thing, and it’s liable to work if he did indeed make such a move. The off-season will see Omar doing everything in his considerable power to import some bullpen help and stabilize the catcher position, and if anyone can do it, it’s Omar. It’s THIS season that I am still worried about, and in spite of what so many sportswriter’s have been saying, I still won’t give up on this season. Right now, though, it’s out of Omar’s hands and solely in the sweaty palms of one Willie Randolph.

Willie, In the Shadow of Citi-Field
We all know that, regardless of what happens this season, we won’t be comfortable with Willie at the helm of this team. With the amount of money that’s already been spent, and the amount yet to come on the heals of a new stadium looming over everything else, I’m sure Wilpons’ Jeff and Fred want nothing more than to raise a World Series banner on opening day in 2009 at Citi-Field. I don’t think anyone can say that Willie is the reason we’ve played far better over the past 3 seasons, as the acquisitions of Beltran, Martinez, etc along with the maturation of Wright and Reyes has had far more to do with our recent spate of success. Willie has seemed to have been a calming influence at times, but his handling of the bullpen, stubbornness, especially in the face of his critics, and his inability to make the right move at the right time leaves us all scratching our heads, wondering when the bottom will fall out from under us. He’s not ready for the responsibility of helming a team such as ours, and would have been better-suited, in my opinion, beginning his managerial career with a team like the KC Royals, with lower expectations and time to hone his skills. Joe Torre was a failure with the Mets and Braves as a manager, and took over the Yankees under great scrutiny at that time. He’s still no Billy Martin, but his temperament was perfect for that mid- to-late 90’s Yanks team, and yet he still hasn’t won a World Series in seven seasons, with the highest payroll in the game throughout that time. I think that Torre is considerably better as a manager than Willie is right now, ONLY because he has been through so much more and sat in the hot-seat for over 11 seasons now. Willie might become a better manager, and I still believe he will, due to his intelligence and experience; he’s just NOT the manager that the Mets’ need right now, and seeing him over-matched by Manny Acta only adds insult to injury.

In Sum
We are still in first place. We are playing only the Marlins, Nats and Cards (one game) for the rest of the season. We have Pedro going tonight. There is still a good chance that the stars will align, and the season will end up where we thought and prayed it would – with the Mets in first, and cruising to a World Series appearance versus either the Angels, Sox, Yanks or Indians…John Young went so far as to bite his tongue yesterday, so hard that he needed 4 stitches, all because of these Mets…I’ve walked around in a daze the past few days, thinking that our season could be over far sooner than I ever would have expected…and Jonathan remains the objective party, feeding me with thoughts of what should and could have been, while somehow remaining optimistic that in spite of Willie, we still might reach that promised land this season. We can only hope…

One last note- don’t be upset with Shawn Green that, on the holiest day in the Jewish year, he chose to sit out tonight’s game for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. First of all, nearly every fan was willing to waive Green mere weeks ago in favor of Milledge, and it’s unfair to heap blame on a player who figured to play such a small role in our season for standing up for his religious beliefs. Let’s all get a reality check here – the Mets have been one of the greatest loves of my life for over 40 years, but not at the cost of my religious beliefs (although sometimes worth fighting for with the spouse!) Put blame where it belongs, on other members of the team who haven’t been picking up their weight, and be glad that in this day and age someone is still willing to stand up for his beliefs in spite of the cost. If things are meant to be, we should be rewarded that Green prayed for our team tonight, and we wish anyone celebrating tonight’s holiday an easy fast and a good and prosperous new year.

Now let’s Go Mets, and Let’s Go Pedro!!!!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Young said...

If you have nothing constructive to add to the post or the site then refrain from commenting and go read Mets Merized.

Tommy said...

what assholes im sure thats not true keep up the good work john

John Young said...

Like I said before Tommy, there will always be those few that think they know it all.

baseball dvds said...

I am afraid that this statement is not correct"
There is still a good chance that the stars will align, and the season will end up where we thought and prayed it would – with the Mets in first, and cruising to a World Series appearance versus either the Angels, Sox, Yanks or Indians
".I would appreciate if you can further elaborate this.Thank you.
baseball dvds.