When you have been a fan of the New York Mets for as long as I have, you begin to get used to certain things.  I am used to losing in agonizing ways, and I am certainly used to the last month of each season having no meaning whatsoever.

However, it is the day after that really is telling about this franchise.  This is true because we get to watch the Wilpons do their song and dance when trying to explain the continued failures of their baseball team.  Consider it “Pass the Buck Day”.  This is their time to convince you and I that they will not stand for the losing any longer.  They are always “very, very disappointed with the results”, and “plan on putting a winning ball-club on the field next year and for years to come.”  You know that you have heard these lines each and every year.  I wish I could see Fred and Jeff do a little jig as they respond to each and every question.

Wilpons at Press Conference Be Gone With Wilpon

It's always a ball at a Wilpon Press Conference

The reporters ask good questions during this press conference every year.  The questions are typically asked the way you would ask your child about his or her poor grades at school.  “What are you planning on doing to improve this situation?”  It is almost scolding in a way.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a reporter  actually asked, “Have you learned from your mistakes, young man?”

This is the normalcy that occurs at the end of each and every failing season for the Mets.  Hey, when you play in New York City and spend the money that the Wilpons have spent over the years, you must have a winning team once in a while.  At the very least by accident.  When you fail over and over again, the media has the right to eat you alive.

One reporter was so on point to ask just how the Wilpons plan on finding the right individual to run their “baseball department”  (gasp, I hate when the Wilpons use that term to describe the Mets…kind of like a hobby).  This obviously implies that they must do something different from what they have done in years past since the process they have used thus far is an obvious failure.  Fred Wilpon even took a reporter’s suggestion under advisement in regards to the GM search.  I don’t know about you, but this does not fill me with much confidence.

One thing is for sure, pushing Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel out the door just puts a band-aid on this festering wound.  After all, it was the Wilpons that gave Minaya the position in the first place.  Minaya did not hire himself, did he?  I will continue to state what I have always stated since I began this blog.  Until the Wilpons accept the blame for THEIR inept decision-making, this team will continue to be a mess.   Why should we be naive enough to think anything differently?

The harshest truth is that Jeff Wilpon and I are about the same age.  That assures me one undeniable truth.  The Mets will never again win the World Series in my lifetime.  That is, unless Jeff Wilpon decides in his heart of hearts to sell the team that I grew up rooting for.

When the plan in constructing a team is to search for bargains and hope for the best, the an awful lot is being left to chance.  That is just what was ordered by Mr. Wilpon this past winter.  “Find some cheap alternatives, and they better pan out…or else!”

Be Gone With Wilpon, Bargain Shopping

The Mets followed orders and looked for bargains this winter. It has worked out thus far.

The Met hierarchy, doing as they were told, searched on the bottom shelf for a group of players that would hopefully pan out for them and be somewhat productive in 2010.  This bargain-basement process led them to the signing of Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Hisanori Takahashi,  R.A. Dickey, and Elmer Dessens.  These names owe us Met fans absolutely nothing to date, wouldn’t you say?

Now there were others that gave us absolutely nothing, such as the departed Mike Jacobs, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Kelvim Escobar.  I think anyone would take a 50% or better success rate when searching for quality on the scrap heap.  That is just what the Mets have gotten through June 15th.  Mission accomplished Jeff.

Let us give credit where credit is due.  Jerry Manuel deserves plenty, as he is certainly getting the most out of all the players on his team, stars and unknowns alike.  Let’s give a shout out to the players themselves, as they are buying into Jerry’s mantra and have found some clubhouse balance.  This is something that has not existed in these parts in quite some time.

The problem now, however,  is two-fold.  The idea of any baseball team is to truly compete for a championship.  In order to be in the conversation, these no-name guys will have to continue their success.  Secondly, the Mets will surely need to add a starter, just as they needed to in November 2009.  Yes, this is true even though the Mets currently are among the league leaders in starting ERA.  They need a solid number three starter (Lackey would have looked great here, wouldn’t he?) to stick behind Pelfrey and Santana, therefore allowing Niese to slot in as the fourth starter.  The unfortunate fact is that this will now cost the Mets prospects as well as the dollars Mr. Wilpon seemingly will not relinquish his grasp upon.

In summary, the Mets have succeeded thus far in spite of Mr. Wilpon and his penny-pinching approach.  It better continue, or someone will have to pay.  Unfortunately, we know it won’t be Jeff Wilpon.

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.

Back to Reality

April 7, 2010

Bad starting pitching?  Check.  Bad bullpen performance by anyone not named Feliciano or K-Rod?  Check.  Horrible baserunning blunder?  Check.  Bad managerial decision?  Check. 

Now that Johan Santana’s opening day start is in the rear-view mirror,  this combination of events is certainly troubling to witness.  After all, this was a game that the Florida Marlins were desperately trying to give away.  On a positive note, you have to give the Met hitters some credit for hanging in there against the Marlins untalented group of relievers.  However, on a night where the Met bats were a little sleepy, it takes more than quality at-bats that create walks to actually win a game.   

John Maine was very unimpressive in his first start of the season, as his fastball rarely broke the 90 mph mark.  This is awfully disturbing for a guy who has been injured for two seasons.  Jerry Manuel stated that we need to “throw this start away” due to the fact that it was Maine’s first start coming out of spring training.  We’ll see, but excuse me if I have my concerns.

We all know that the bullpen is going to be a mess this season, as the Mets will bounce back and forth between unproven and untalented relievers  trying to find a diamond in the rough.  If the Mets can not capitalize and win a game while Pedro Feliciano or Francisco Rodriguez are still in the game, we surely will see plenty more of what we saw tonight.

Fernando Tatis’ decision to break home on a wild pitch with limited real estate behind home plate, and late in a close game, is inexcusible.  This play just made us feel like 2009 never ended, as baserunning gaffes were the norm last season.

Lastly, how could Jerry Manuel take the bat out of Jason Bay’s hands by having Wright steal second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning?  His answer was, “We have good hitters behind Bay in Gary Matthews.”  This was followed up by the same reporter with the question of, “Why then is Jason Bay being paid sixty plus million to be here?  Wasn’t it to have him hit in these situations?”  Right on Mr. reporter, whoever you are.  Jerry just deflected this comment with the same nonsense that he originally stated, perhaps truly believing that Matthews is in the same league as Bay when it comes to hitting a baseball.

Ahh, welcome to 2010 Met fans.  Are you ready for more?

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.

Can’t this guy be optimistic about anything?

As I have mentioned in other various posts, I consider myself a realist.  If the majority of what comprises the Met roster appears to be sub-par in my eye, then the words I pen may be construed as negative.  I understand the perception here.  Regardless of how I come across, I will not apologize for my opinions.  After all, this is my blog, isn’t it?  Well, that is that.

I move on now to another shortcoming of the 2010 New York Mets, the bullpen.  I have already stated my low expectations for this year’s starting rotation as a whole.  With low expectations placed there already, the importance of the bullpen is raised tenfold.  Let us break down the current pitchers that will likely be a part of this intricate facet of the team.

Francisco Rodriquez – K-Rod is widely regarded as the one “sure thing” the Met bullpen has going for it in 2010.  I think that giving him this tag is a little dangerous.  If you glance over his career statistics, you will notice some disturbing trends.  One of those trends is a marked decrease in strikeouts over the past 2 seasons.  He still strikes out just over one batter per inning, but the average has slipped from the 1.4 average he posted from 2004 to 2007.  His batting average against and WHIP have also fallen off in recent years.  Some people want to chalk up last year’s poor second half to K-Rod mailing it in after the entire team went on the disabled list.  Listen, mental lapses happen in baseball, and last year certainly passes as an acceptable situation for one to occur.  However, I point to something a little more meaningful when it comes to K-Rod’s decline in production.   Pitching is a physical activity, is it not?  When a starting pitcher reaches a certain amount of innings, typically his production begins to falter.  This is particularly true for a power pitcher.  Why should it be any different for a reliever, especially one that is used as often as K-Rod.  Rodriquez’ pitching style is also quite violent as he twists and flails his body with his follow through.  Wouldn’t it stand to reason that after having pitched 520 career innings, that there is the possibility of his smallish-frame showing signs of wearing down?  That is absolutely my belief and my major concern for K-Rod moving forward.  This is the best reliever the Mets have by the way.

Could K-Rod's violent delivery and excessive innings be the cause of his decline in productivity?

Bobby Parnell – Parnell was one of the few players that actually excited me going into last season.  He started out like a bullet fired from a shotgun in April and May looking rather dominant as the Mets’ seventh inning man.  He even had a brief period of success once J.J. Putz went down as the eighth inning guy before losing his confidence, and ultimately his meaningful innings.  The Mets could not stop the bleeding with this guy, and after his confidence was completely destroyed, he was further confused when the Mets made him their 5th starter.  That was a total disaster, because the Mets barely afforded him the time to stretch out his innings and get comfortable once again as a starting pitcher.   Instead, they fed him to the wolves without any confidence or comfort whatsoever.  I believe that Parnell still has some upside, which is more than I can say for most of the other members of the Met bullpen.  If the Mets are to have any success, it will unfortunately fall on Parnell’s inexperienced shoulders once again.

Pedro Feliciano – There was once a time where I did not like Feliciano.  That time has passed.  After all, a left-handed reliever who can pitch over 80 innings in a season with relative success is no one to feel dislike towards.  The only thing wrong with him is that he has no help yet again from the left side of the mound in 2010.  Seriously, why do the Mets continue to make the same mistakes over and over again?

Ryota Igarashi – We all know by now that you never know what you are going to get with a Japanese import, regardless of their success in Japan.  We know this especially well as Met fans, as we seem to take more chances on guys like this than any team in the bigs.  Therefore, I will not count on Igarashi at all for 2010, even though the Mets did when they signed him to a guaranteed 2 year, $3 million deal this off-season.  Once again the Mets like to guarantee contracts to unproven players rather than giving that same money to someone who is proven.  My head is in my hands right about now as I take a break from typing this.

Sean Green – There was an interesting article posted about Green here, where there are illustrations on how his delivery has evolved in the past 2 years.  There were thoughts that he might be following the development of Chad Bradford, who was a player the Mets should never have let go when they did after the 2006 season.   Whether the changes Green  has made in his delivery lead to more effectiveness or not remains to be seen.  Throughout his career, Green has been an average reliever at best, so any improvement would be welcomed.

Kelvim Escobar – Enough has been written about this guy to date that I do not need to mention anything here.  Until he actually pitches more than 2 consecutive appearances without getting injured, he deserves no additional chatter.

R.A. Dickey –  This is a guy who throws a knuckle ball with little success.  Not much more to say here.  He was signed to a minor league deal, although with the lack of depth in the bullpen, he actually has a shot of making the team.  Gasp!

Pat Misch – Another starter that could serve as a long reliever or spot starter for the Mets.  Unfortunately, his talent is also limited.

Jenrry Mejia – As reported here by The ‘Repolitans, Jerry Manuel went a little crazy over this kid after watching him pitch one day in training camp.  He has good stuff, but come on.  Let the kid go to the minors and hopefully develop into a real major league pitcher before we talk about him any further.

That is all there is to say about our bullpen candidates.  I have only listed the players that hold at least slight meaning going into April.  Like I said, the bullpen is certainly not a strength for the Mets this year.  Then again, after reviewing all aspects of the team, what area of the team really is?