June 23, 2008

Wrapping ("Rappin'") Up The Weekend - And a NICE Weekend it Was, for a Change!

By Jack "The Hack" Mason

Man, was it hot in Los Angeles this weekend- hitting over 113 degrees where David lives, around 110 where I live- and yet, it seems, the Mets were even hotter than the L.A. sun, for a change! Let's hit a bunch of random topics:

Jose Valentin
, it seems, is finished for this season, telling the Mets he needs the rest of the season to heal up for a comeback in '09. Okay, first of all, let's bring Valentin in as another coach - call him an infield coach, call him a second bench coach, call him the watercooler coach, I don't care- he's another good influence on Reyes and company, and that's good enough for me!!! And forget about playing in '09 - you'll be 39 and without greenies, why put your body through that? I think you'll end up managing, and probably pretty quickly, so start the next phase of your career NOW! And thanks, 'stashe, for giving us a lot in a short amount of time.

Ryan Church, missing in action far longer than originally anticipated, is looking to return to the team this weekend, right in time to take on the Yanks in a 4-game series. If he can get hot again, and is fully recovered, his return couldn't have come at a better time! Now the rest of the line-up has to stay hot, and the team will continue its march up the standings! (Dare I dream?!)

Luis Castillo's role as the starting second-sacker seems to be on hold right now, as Manuel goes with the hot-hand in Damion Easley. Castillo, according to Manuel, seems to be hurting once again, and rather than throw him out there, he's trying to ascertain whether Castillo needs DL time or not. Okay- why can't this team be like every other team and decide immediately whether a player needs to be DLed or not?! Why do these things take so much work when other organizations determine a players injury status right away and don't short-shift the manager's roster? As Bruce Springsteen said "one step up and two steps back..." and I don't want to be negative today - so perhaps Manuel will decide today to DL Castillo and let Omar either acquire a new middle infield replacement, or bring up Hernandez and let him back up Easley and Reyes for a while.

Moises Alou, in Manuel's opinion, seems to have a better chance at parting the Red Sea then coming back to the team this season, and he's publicly stated that he's not counting on Alou's return this season. Did you hear that, Omar? Trot Nixon is not enough to take the place of Alou! How about signing Kenny Lofton (gee, where have you heard that before?) and platooning the two of them? Alou, if he comes back at all this season, is still brittle- that's not going to change- so IF he gives us anything at this point, it's merely icing, not cake- and WE NEED CAKE!!!!!!

Angel Pagan is working out but still isn't close to being back to the majors. I only hope he'll have a space on the team by the time he comes back, as the addition of Nixon and anyone else Omar might (should) bring in soon might leave no room on the roster for Angel, which would really be a shame. So come back soon, Angel- man, I never thought I'd be saying THAT in March!!

Ambiorix Burgos must be lost in the Bermuda Triangle, as it's been so long since we've heard about his status. Perhaps he's on the island in Lost right now, but wherever he is, we haven't heard about it! It's beyond milk carton photos and amber alert messages- Burgos is just plain out of sight, out of mind!

Bullpen Roles
Hallelujah!! One of the things this blog has railed about for years now is Willie's poor bullpen management. In less than a week on the job, new manager Jerry Manuel has already assigned roles to the majority of his bullpen arms:

Billy Wagner- Closer (what a surprise!)
Duaner Sanchez - 8th Inning Set-up man (if his fastball comes all the way back this season, look out!)
Joe Smith- Right-handed specialist (and "Hello Kitty" packpack carrier!)
Pedro Feliciano - Left-handed specialist (and maybe he'll face more than one batter at a time!)
Claudio Vargas - Long-Relief (when Ollie's pitches go postal, Vargas is your man)
Scott Schoeneweis & Aaron Heilman- Roles to be determined (I'd guess they will be the fill-ins for Sanchez, Smith, Feliciano and Wagner when they go back-to-back days as well). Manuel likes to go with the hot hand, so if Schoeneweis stays hot, or Heilman ever gets there, they'll get a permanent spot in there too, I'm sure.

The "Gangsta" Jerry Manuel
Okay- we've been given exactly what we asked for- a manager who gives roles to his bullpen, doesn't take any "crap" from his players, is quotable and reaches both his players and the media. And what happens? He makes a comment about Mets' fans and "fertilizer" in the same paragraph, and of course the NY Post makes a mountain of crap out of a molehill of fertilizer. Click here to read the real story from the Daily News' Adam Rubin, setting the record straight. Come on, let Manuel get settled in the job before you start ripping apart his comments! And at least get the cader of his voice down and report it so that the humor in his comments comes out- don't strip that out and make flat words look like an attack on the fans, which it certainly wasn't. Read Rubin's blog about this - please - or Metsblog's comments about this- which you can access by clicking here - and get the REAL comments from Manuel! It's too early for this crap! (All pun intended!)

2 out of 3 from the Rockies
If you would have told me that the only game we'd end up losing over the weekend would be the one that Pedro would pitch, I would have told you you're crazy...and yet that's exactly what happened! And even though Pedro gave up some quick runs via dingers in the 5th inning, he still looked really good during the first 4, so give him a pass and know that he'll be at his best against the Yanks this Friday.

Mike Pelfrey looked real good yesterday, not as crisp as his previous 2 starts, but good, even though he allowed 5 walks - if only that slider were perfected in the minors, and he was given the right time in AAA to develop, he's shown that he's got #1 stuff to lead a rotation some time in the future. His fastball moved, and it was heavy, and if he can stay consistent (and stay away from blisters), he's shown that he's a power arm to be reckoned with. With Santana and Maine going into next season, and, hopefully Pedro, that's 4 out of 5 spots locked in. Oh - by the way- for all of the heat Omar's faced this season, has anyone noticed that all 5 of the starting pitchers were Omar acquisitions or draft picks? And he DID fulfill that part of his promise, in building the team around pitching, as our starters are certainly the biggest asset on this team right now!

The bottom line- we're 3.5 games behind the Phils right now; the team started to look hot under Randolph in his last few days - let's hope Manuel can continue to guide them up in the standings. Let's show those Phillies what it's like to lose a comfortable lead- just not wait until September to make it happen!!!

Omar Brings in Wayne Krivsky
Former Reds' GM Wayne Krivsky was brought in over the weekend to join Omar's staff as a special assistant to the GM. Krivsky was let go by now-GM, Walt Jocketty, a few weeks ago, and is one of the better talent evaluators in baseball (prior to the Reds, he was with the Twins). Even though Krivsky traded outfielder (and triple crown candidate) Josh Hamilton to the Rangers, he got back starter Edinson Volquez, currently 10-2 with a 1.81 ERA and 110 K's in 95 innings. Volquez will probably start the All-Star game for the NL, if he stays at his current pace, while Hamilton is certainly in the MVP running, and will be an All-Star as well. Krivsky oversaw the drafting and rise of such young talent as Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, so let's hope, if he stays around, he can be of help to Omar and allow him to make some good trades, draft well next season and add another set of eyes scouting major league teams this season. I really like the addition of Krivsky, and it shows that Omar is willing to do whatever it takes to win, bringing in his old Texas Ranger cronie, without fear that Krivsky will loom over him as a potential replacement should Omar be fired.

Editor's Note (9:30PM): From David- Actually, Jack, Krivsky picked up Hamilton as a Rule V acquisition, then traded him for Volquez, that is true, but most of the other prospects you mention were certainly overseen by Krivsky (who did also acquire Brandon Philips for nothing) but most of these prospects were actually drafted by Krivsky's predecessors, Jim Bowden and Dan O'Brien. Doesn't take away from the fact that Krivsky is an excellent judge of talent, as his work with Minnesota also bares out.

Johan Tonite vs. Mariners
Johan Santana, starting for the Mets tonite, is 6-0 in his last eight starts versus the Mariners with a 2.42 ERA, and opposes Mariners' ace Felix Hernandez, who has never faced the Mets before. This is one of those pitching match-ups that excite fans going in, but that oftentimes disappoint, ending up in a 6-5 outcome or something similar. Johan needs to be a stopper tonight, if the Mets want to win 2 of 3 in this series, and possibly sets us up for a sweep. He'll also face the Yanks this weekend, on Saturday, so it would be great to see him get 2 victories in one week. Hey- it is warming up, after all, and now we are coming to the time when Johan gets dominant. I'm thinking THIS WEEK would be a great time for that to start!! (Not that his starts to date have been shabby, mind you.) So Let's Go Mets, Let's Go Santana, and sweep those Mariners back to Seattle!

My Rant
I am sooooooooooo tired of hearing about how Omar and company did Willie a "disservice" firing him when and how he did. There's NO good time to fire someone, but all things being equal, knowing that Willie is going to collect 3.4 million bucks over the next year and a half, that's a LOT of green to wash down the bad taste of the firing. Hey- I was fired a few years ago because the company I worked for was about to go out of business, and they couldn't afford to give me even one week of severance after 4 years of work, so it's hard to feel sorry for Willie. He'll get a job somewhere, can hold his head high as a man and has the health of his family and himself to be thankful for- so no more articles about him being "blind-sided" or how he deserved better after taking the team so far from where they were- last I looked, coming short by one game of the World Series means we didn't get there, and last season's collapse is what it is and that, utlimately, is what Willie's tenure as our manager will be judged by, just as, if Omar doesn't take this team to the Series in the next season and a half or so, will be judged by as well.

In closing, be careful what you wish for, Mets' fans, because we just might get it - in the form of Manuel, Krivsky, a return to health for Church and more wins this week- and wouldn't THAT be nice!!!!!

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