This Story Truly Stinks

August 23, 2011

Hello, Mets fans.  It is that time of year again.  Yes, we have reached that annual meaningless stretch of the season that we are unfortunately accustomed to.  At this time of year, we need something to make us smile as we get bashed night in and night out by superior competition.

 

Well, fear not.  Angel Pagan has taken care of the need for comedic relief during last night’s drubbing at the hands of the Phillies.  As reported by the Daily News, Angel was unable to make it to the plate on time for his scheduled at bat.  I’ll allow Hardball Talk’s article to give the specifics on this one.  I am still laughing too hard to elaborate any further.

 

This toilet signifies so many things when it comes to the Mets and their season.

This makes me wonder.  Was Angel sick to his stomach because of something he ate, or is it simply that he feels the same way we Met fans do about the state of our team year in and year out? Hmmmm….

His return has been highly anticipated.  Now that Beltran is here, what does it mean to the New York Mets?  I am sure that opinions on this subject vary as greatly as K-Rod’s pitch types.  Even if you have an opinion, do you really feel strongly about it?

Carlos Beltran, Be Gone With Wilpon

I hope the joke is not on us, Carlos.

The Carlos Beltran Paradox has many layers.  Let’s peel them shall we?

For starters, we can state the obvious.  He has been out of the game for almost a calendar year.  Even for a seasoned veteran like Beltran, that is a lot to adjust to.  You just don’t jump into the pool without that initial temperature shock.  Jose Reyes is the obvious example of this, as he struggled mightily upon his return.  There is obviously going to be a hard adjustment period here for Beltran, and this is going to make things murder for Jerry Manuel when he makes out his lineup card each day.  More on this in a moment.

Next, it is important to discuss what kind of player Carlos Beltran is at this point in his career.  Is he the guy that they signed to that $100 million plus mega-deal in 2005?  Not likely, as he has rarely lived up to that status as a Met to date.  So who is he, and what can be realistically expected of him?  Follow me people.  Just a little more patience and we’ll be there.

Certainly, we need to discuss his health. The last we heard before his return is that his knee would never be 100%  from this point forward.  As a matter of fact, his doctor was quoted as saying that if his knee were to worsen at all, then microfracture surgery may be necessary.  This procedure is nothing to sneeze at, and is only prescribed when there is a certain level of cartilage damage in the knee-joint to begin with.  Enough medical jargon, though.  Here is my point.  No one, including his surgeon, has any idea how his knee will hold up.   I don’t blame the Mets in any way for trying to get him here and playing by the way.  After all, it is their money that is being spent here.  They might as well try to get what they can out of him.  If his knee begins to howl, then they gave it a shot, didn’t they? 

Lastly, where and how does he fit in with this team?  The easy decision of predominantly benching Franceour has been made.  However, Angel Pagan does play a mean centerfield, doesn’t he?  It is my assumption that your center fielder needs to cover the most ground out of all of your outfielders.  At least that is what I learned from little league.  I know that the Mets want Beltran to feel comfortable and all, but shouldn’t they field their best defensive team?   Why not play Beltran in right for a while, which leaves your best outfielder to man center as it should be.  If his knee continues to mend, then perhaps make this switch later.

What about where to hit Beltran?  Is he a number four hitter?  Was he ever?  That breaking in period I mentioned only makes batting Beltran cleanup even more silly.  Is he a number two hitter like his days on the Kansas City Royals?  Back then, he had wheels that worked.  I think that it is a safe assumption that Carlos’ burning days are over.  So where do you bat him?  Number five?  Number six?  There is that little thing called ego that might get in the way of those decisions.   

Sheesh, that is a lot to think about for Jerry Manuel.  I am glad that I am not the one making these calls. 

In summary, this subject is quite complex, and a lot to absorb.  Ultimately, Calros Beltran better be worth our effort.

There are many Met fans who have expressed surprise by the team’s recent shortcomings.  My only response to this is…Why?  The Met roster has obvious shortcomings that have been well documented.  Was anyone really measuring that home winning streak, as impressive as it might have been, as a true barometer of this team’s talent?  Come on now.

Now that reality has truly set in, let’s ponder what the brain trust has in store for the remaining three quarters of the season.  It will then become important to determine whether these decisions will be the proper ones, or yet additional mistakes that will inherently damage this team’s future.

Starting Staff – There are those who believe that the Mets should add an arm to help their “suddenly” depleted staff.  I say shame on anyone for asking the team to act now.  Just three weeks ago the media was as much in love with our rotation as Omar Minaya is, and that is the equivalent of proposing for marriage.

The truth of the matter is that the staff is as unproductive as it comes,  and that is because production is measured by both the talent and health of a group of players.  Like so many other areas of this team, the players that constitute the rotation are lacking in either or both.  Based on this theory, Mike Pelfrey is the number two as this article is being written, and no one else behind him belongs on a major league staff.  Then again, we all knew this BEFORE the season started, but nothing was done to correct this situation.  Oh that’s right, Omar was not aware of this fact, my mistake.

Now that my redundant rant is through, what should the Mets do at this point?  If the Mets go out and bring in another pitcher for example, then shouldn’t they have offered John Lackey a deal in the winter?  That ship has sailed on us.  No sense in crying over spilled milk.  Sorry, I can’t think of any other uselss lines here.

Be Gone With Wilpon, R A Dickey

Don't worry, our prayers are going to be answered with the call up of R A Dickey!

In all seriousness, I am of the opinion that the Mets should do things internally.  Evan Roberts stated today on WFAN that Jenrry Mejia should be sent down to the minors immediately to build up his arm to become what he was always meant to be…a starting pitcher.  In fact, this is an idea shared by many other bloggers, and I could not agree more.  He is about all they have, what with the other top options being none other than R.A. Dickey and Pat Misch.  Unfortunately, there is not much else in the cupboard as far as imminent starting pitching prospects.  Ultimately, Mejia being a member of the bullpen is yet another example of the Mets filling a hole by creating yet another one.  They can fix it, but must act now.

Offense – Angel Pagan was recently moved to the three-hole because no one else was capable of filling that role, including Jose Reyes.  Look, I like Pagan, but he is as much a three hitter as I am a major league player.  Truth be told, the Mets do not have a true three or four hitter on their roster, what with David Wright transforming into an undisciplined pull hitter over the past year.

The point is, you can mix and match this makeshift lineup all you want.  However, the results will inevitably be inconsistent regardless of what combination you throw out there.  The one exception may be bringing Fernando Martinez up to play him in right field should Jeff Franceour continue to struggle.  Unfortunately, Fernando has also struggled in the minors thus far.  It looks as if the Mets will be forced to make do with what they have for now and the unforeseeable future.

Manager- The firing line is preparing their guns for Jerry Manuel’s head, and the order might be given any day now.  Is he really to blame for this mess?   Well, he is certainly not blameless here (Omar).  He is ultimately responsible for the way his players prepare themselves on and off the field, and they certainly do not look as focused as they did two weeks ago.

On the other hand, what manager would get more out of Ollie P. and John Maine?  Sometimes a manager is only as good as his players, and I am afraid Jerry is no exception here.  Blameless?  No way.  The sole person to blame?  Certainly not.  Either way, Jerry should receive his walking papers soon enough.  Once he does, who in the name of all that is holy is qualified to run this ship for the balance of the season?  More importantly, who is going to get more out of this mediocre roster than Jerry has to date?  Your guess is as good as mine.

The Makeshift Lineup

February 28, 2010

I have already written about my displeasure in the Mets’ decision to not move Carlos Beltran this off-season.  It is for this reason that we are discussing lineup options geared towards filling holes rather than writing something in that is strong and steady.  This was the Met brain trust at work once again.  I suppose you might call it the opposite of strong and steady.

Regardless of how you feel about this, we must now deal with what Jerry Manuel will have to pencil in on a day-to-day basis, even if it is far less than optimal.  I break this down into ideal versus inevitable lineups.  The ideal lineup lists where each player would most likely fall in a traditional batting order.  The ideal lineup will also be an incomplete one, as the Mets do not currently have players to fill all of the traditional holes that a batting order constitutes.  The inevitable lineup is the best case scenario for the Mets in order to actually plug all the holes needed to complete the batting order.  Let us begin with what is inevitable.  In parenthasis you will see the batting order slot that the player truly belongs in.

Inevitable Lineup:

1) Angel Pagan (bench/fourth outfielder)

2) Luis Castillo (8)

3) Jose Reyes (1)

4) David Wright (5)

5) Jason Bay (5)

6) Daniel Murphy (2)

7) Jeff Francoeur (7)

8) Rod Barajas (8)

9) Pitcher (9)

As you can plainly see, the Mets have players batting out of their ideal positions.  This is particularly true for Jose Reyes, whose capabilities project very well as a leadoff hitter because of his speed and the intangibles he brings to the game.  He does not fit the profile of a third place hitter very well, as that slot is defined as a team’s most patient, intelligent, and fundamentally sound hitter.  It usually is held down by someone who has a great eye for pitch recognition, and that with this selectivity, can fight off tough two-strike pitches before he eventually capitalizes on a mistake pitch.  I think that it is safe to say that Jose Reyes is not this type of hitter.  Would anyone argue with me?

The problem is that we do not actually have a hitter of this ilk on the roster, and that poses a large problem.  Who is the one guy that pitchers dread to face in a big spot?  Still thinking?  Believe me, you will be sitting there for a while until you eventually settle on someone who you know is not worthy.

If you sum it up, the Mets have one leadoff hitter, one potential 2nd place hitter, two fifth place hitters, one seventh place hitter, and two eighth place hitters.  Look below to see what the ideal lineup would entail.

1) Jose Reyes

2) Daniel Murphy

3) Player not on team

4) Player not on team

5) David Wright/Jason Bay

6) Player not on team

7) Jeff Francoeur

8) Rod Barajas/Luis Castillo

9) Pitcher

You can see my point.  Yes, I understand that not every team is the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox (even though we exceed one of the two in payroll…rapping head against the table).  I also realize that I have excluded Carlos Beltran, but that is what I do to players that are often injured….I pretend that they do not exist.  What other responsible thing can I do?

Jerry Manuel will have a tough time filling in his daily lineup card with the troops he has in his dugout.

The main point is this.  Not having a true number three or number four hitter on the Met roster makes it utterly impossible for me to have much confidence in the 2010 perspective lineup.

How many of you felt that the opening day depth chart in center field would look the way it does right now?  Come on now.  Well, if you were like me, I would have bet the house on it looking somewhat similar to the way it does today.  Before I get ahead of myself, let’s break it down in an organized way.

Angel Pagan – Angel has some skill.  I truly believe that.  Sometimes you just have to trust your eyes in what they see to be reality.  He can run.  He can field.  He can hit with some real skill.  His hand-eye coordination is quite good.  So what is the problem?  We know that there is no power in that bat, and at Citifield, that makes that point relatively moot.  That is not the problem.  So what is?  Well, he is not a star for one.  He doesn’t do anything extremely well, whether that be because of he is not in fact star caliber, or because he lacks the mind-set to pull it off.  His largest flaw is sporadic mental lapses on the field.  That is the major obstacle that has kept him from being considered a starter in this league.  I believe he has the skills to be a tremendous base runner and defensive outfielder.  He has not shown this with any regularity simply because he shuts down mentally at key moments.  There were many moments where you wished you cold smack him in the head and say, “Hey, stay focused out there.  This game is important to you and the team.”

His mental flaws withstanding, he is the right kind of player to play on a team that calls Citifield home.  One-dimensional power guys are not.  Citifield calls for speed, line drive hitting, and good defense.  It is too bad the Mets do not have more players of his ilk.

Gary Matthews, Jr. – It pains me to place this guy even second on the depth chart, but alas I have no choice in the matter.  He had one good season, 2006 with the Texas Rangers.  I was fortunate to have him on my fantasy team that year.  However, this is not fantasy baseball circa 2006.  Recently, it was uncovered that he was on steroids for that season, and has been nothing like it since.  Not much more to mention here.  Just a terrible trade by the Mets and Omar Minaya in this instance.  I liked Brian Stokes a good deal, and I believe the Mets will miss his presence in the bullpen this year.  Depth is one thing, but sometimes you just have to be smart and stand pat to prevent a silly move.

Carlos Beltran – Now we come to one of the key issues with the Mets.  Nearing the end of last season’s debacle, I was happy that Beltran came back from his injury.  I was rooting for him to succeed, just not for the reasons of most Met fans.  Do not get me wrong, I like Beltran.  I love to watch him play.  However, I was hoping that he would produce in order to prove that he was healthy.  The Mets would then be able to shop him for something, anything, of real value.  I know this will be the most controversial topic that I will cover here in my blogs, and I am ready for the scrutiny if it should follow.

Let me explain.  Carlos Beltran is known around the league to be one of, if not the best, center fielders in the league.  I for one can not argue that point…when he plays. I understand that he may be perceived as soft by some, and a warrior by others because he tries to play through pain.  I do not care which category he falls under.  I only know that he falls under the category of the oft-injured.  To me, I want someone to contribute to the team that will play 150 plus games in the field, or that will make 30 plus starts on the mound.  Even if that player should fall short of superstar caliber, I say the Mets should have traded Beltran for someone else.  Perhaps they should have tried to trade Beltran for a true number two starting pitcher.  I say number two as opposed to number one because I am a realist.  I know no GM is going to trade a staff ace for a guy who gets hurt as often as Beltran does.  However, if another team felt that they were getting the better end of the deal on talent alone, perhaps they make that move.  This was my hope, although I knew that there was about zero percent chance of this being entertained by the Mets.  This is just another philosophical difference that I have with those making the decisions for the Mets, and it is something that I have to painfully swallow as a fan.

Unfortunately, the Mets are stuck with Beltran

The reality is this.  So much of the Mets’ success is predicated on this guy playing and producing.  With such a high percentage chance that he will miss large chunks of time due to injury, shouldn’t the Mets have hitched their star to someone more reliable?  I think so.  Well, now we are stuck waiting for him to get “healthy” once again, with no realistic timetable for his return.  Sounds like a broken record to me.

To conclude, how would you answer the question I posed to you at the beginning of this article?  If you thought differently, then you just have not been following the Mets very closely for the past few years.

Continuing our trip around the bases, we arrive at second base and the expectations that come from the position in 2010. 

Luis Castillo – I can not believe that I am about ot say this.  Luis Castillo was one of the few bright spots for the 2009 New York Mets.  

There.  I said it.  I know others have said the same when reflecting back at last season.  However, since I was one of his biggest critics, I feel that this speaks volumes.  

Let’s take a look at why this is true.  He finished second on the team, behind only David Wright, in runs scored.  He was fourth on the team in batting average, behind two players who only played half a season in Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan.  He was also third on the team in on-base percentage, once again trailing just Beltran and Wright.  More importantly, he led the team in walk to strikeout ratio, posting 69 walks to only 58 strikeouts in nearly 500 at bats.  This facet of his game is nothing new, as he has always shown the propensity to foul off a pitch when needed.  His speed has deteriorated due to nagging injuries, as he only swiped 20 bags while being caught 6 times.  A 77 % success rate for steals is not terrible, but nothing to write home about either.  His inability to drive the ball with any authority whatsoever (a .346 slugging percentage) is something every Met fan will point to with anger.  However, I believe that he has been a major league player for reasons other than power throughout his entire career.  The truth is that it was the lack of production behind Luis that decreased his overall productivity, mainly keeping his runs under 100 for the season.  A .387 on-base percentage with 500 at bats usually leads to nearly 100 runs scored with any semblance of productivity behind a given player.  If Luis can produce these numbers this year again, I think Met fans should take it and run to the bank. 

Now we get to the negative side of Castillo.  Defense.  His defense has taken a nose dive in recent years, unfortunately coinciding with when he became a New York Met.  The stats will not illustrate this point at all, as his fielding percentage was quite good.  I am also not talking about that Yankee game disaster either.  He was torched enough for that by everyone that there is no need to expand on the topic any further.  It is in the range that he displays, whether it be to his left or his right that is most troubling.  He has clearly lost a significant first step when breaking on a ground ball.  This is a man who was once one of the best defenders in the league for many years.  We all know it as Met fans, seeing him on the Florida Marlins for ten years.  He seemed to rob us on a nightly basis back then.  He is no longer that player, nor is he close.  What he is now is an average defender who will be portrayed as well beneath that level by Met fans for that Yankee game gaffe. 

Alex Cora – Cora is a nice utility player.  He filled in admirably before falling to the epidemic of injuries that befell the Mets last year.  If he is healthy, his defense is solid enough that you do not cringe when he is in the game.  His offense is below average however, with 2008 being a bit of an offensive aberation. 

Anderson Hernandez – This is not a player that you want to see on the field for the Mets in 2010.  If he does play, chances are someone of significamce is injured again.  He does not excel in any given area as a baseball player. 

Luis Castillo was the least of the problems for the 2009 New York Mets

If Castillo can stay healthy (something that can be said for nearly every Met player), than I believe that he will produce well enough as the number two hitter and second baseman for the Mets to compete in 2010.  I respect what he brings to field enough to say that.  It is everyone else that I am quite unsure about.

Wow, did I just say that?  I just slapped myself to see if I was thinking clearly.  What is particularly scary is that I believe I am.