By Dave Mills
No doubt about it--this has been a brutal two-week slump. At the one-third point of the season on June 4, the Mets were 35-19. In the intervening two weeks they have gone 2-11. And it is not a pretty sight, as just about all aspects of their game has been far less than amazin'.
Each of the starters has been roughed up at least once (Glavine on several occasions); the bullpen has been far less than stellar (Schoeneweis and Mota look just awful almost every time out); the bats of the 3rd and 4th hitters in the lineup are silent (Beltran was 0 for 6 with 9 LOB on Saturday/Delgado is just looking worn down); and even the defense is slipping slightly, although still quite good.
The biggest questions have to be...
1. Will Glavine find his rhythm?
2. Will Alou actually be back before the All-Star break?
3. What about Schoeneweis to the DL?
4. Will the Carlos' drive in the runs they are given?
5. Will Minaya deal?
My guess is Glavine and Peterson will find a way to work out of this personal slump and find a way to win 12-14 games this season, but the current scenario should seal Glavine's resolve to retire at the end of the current campaign, which is probably good for the Mets due to their front-line starter depth (see below).
Can't imagine Alou returning before the break unless it is to one of the minor league affiliates for a few games, so he can return for the second half with a grooved swing (not one of his problems). Staying healthy has always been a real issue and no one should be surprised by the lack of at-bats in the first half. The real stunners, that could not have been anticipated, were the injuries to Lastings Milledge and Endy Chavez, who were fully expected to cover rest and injuries to Alou, Green and Beltran. No doubt Omar considered that depth before signing the injury-prone Alou.
We've said it before, but Schoeneweis' tendon in the back of his left knee is causing him and the Mets big problems. Just as certainly his right-handed compliment, Guillermo Mota, is having trouble getting outs and saving runs. It is time to DL Schoeneweis and send Mota back to New Orleans for a few weeks to sharpen up. There are two bullpen specialists at Triple A who are pitching very well and deserve an opportunity. Southpaw Willie Collazo, a diminutive 28-year-old in the mold of John Franco, and righty Steve Schmoll, a big 27-year-old sidearmer, who arrived with Duaner Sanchez from the Dodgers, have been extremely effective this season and both have excellent strikeout to walk ratios, a must for relievers. Schmoll's problem is the Mets are not very excited about having so many relievers throwing from the side as do Smith, Feliciano and even Heilman.
The Carlos Factor
For the most part, Beltran and Delgado have spent much of the season toiling in the third and clean-up roles and have left an amazing amount of runners on base. Between the two, they have 19 HR and 79 RBI, which has to be in the bottom third of all major league teams. Clearly, Delgado's season-long slump is not allowing Beltran to see better pitches to drive. The only alternative is probably to bat Wright behind Beltran with Green following, or to move Beltran to the two-hole with LoDuca in the three-hole followed by Wright and Green. Fact is, Beltran should be rested for about two weeks so his aching quad can mend, but the Mets do not have that luxury right now. So, where does that leave Delgado, who is really hurting the Mets in ways that are difficult to cover up when a potent hitter like Alou is not in the lineup? What becomes clear, as the various scenarios play themselves out, is the domino effect of Alou's injury compounded by Delgado's slump. Baseball is clearly a synergistic game.
So, what's a GM to do? Shake it up a little. Restructuring the pen from the minors from now to the break with Willie Collazo and/or Steve Schmoll is not that big a deal. Taking a good look at acquiring a high quality, high-priced starter is probably already in the works. The betting would be on Carlos Zambrano or Roy Oswalt. Likely, the Mets would have to give up Pelfrey and either Heilman or Sosa or two other prospects. Pelfrey is pitching very effectively at New Orleans and Sosa is making a bit of a mark. But without Duaner Sanchez, can the Mets afford to deal Heilman?
The outfield poses some serious problems unless Willie is satisfied with a platoon of sorts in left with Rickie Ledee and Carlos Gomez. Most of us are not. There are few options in the minors and I would rather see some of them rather than Ledee. How about giving Gotay a crash course in LF and use the talented Gomez in the Endy Chavez role. Gomez shows promise, but clearly needs more seasoning at the plate, as he has resorted to a little too much bunting for basehits, always an obvious tell of being overmatched. Gotay is an intriguing player (probably why they obtained him last season). He has some pop, speed and a pretty good batting eye. Defensively, he seems above average with decent range. In this emergency, he could be just the right fit for the next three weeks.
The Mets clear franchise areas of strength are starting pitching (Glavine, Maine, Perez, Hernandez, Sosa, Pedro Martinez, Dave Williams, Pelfrey, Jason Vargas, Phil Humber, Brian Lawrence, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra) and outfielders (Beltran, Green, Chavez, Milledge, Gomez, Ben Johnson, Chip Ambres, Fernando Martinez, Corey Coles, Caleb Stewart and Dustin Martin). They have very few promising relievers, infielders and catchers. Minaya must deal from strength to get stronger. He is also prevented from trading any players currently on the DL, which eliminates quite a few bats.
There does seem to be an undercurrent of chatter about Ichiro being available and slightly less of an Adam Dunn and Junior Griffey buzz. Dunn would be the much better choice between the two Reds, but Ichiro, if actually available, would make the Mets a dynamic team capable of winning it all. Problem is, if the Mariners were to deal Ichiro, they would need a centerfielder, and a good one, along with some arms (they have seven pitchers on the DL). Milledge would be a very good fit along with Pelfrey and another prospect. but we will have to wait for Lastings to play a few weeks and perform well. The perfect fit for the Mariners would probably be Milledge, Endy Chavez and Pelfrey. Dunn may be the most likely addition to the Mets since he could be obtained for a little less and would create an option of using Alou more sparingly to spell Dunn or Green against lefties. Both Green and Dunn can also play some 1B.
Peter Gammons reported during the Sunday night debacle against the Highlanders that Billy Wagner has been pushing Minaya to get Brad Lidge and that the Mets are talking to the White Sox regarding Mark Buerhle. Nice pickups both, if they can be had.
What about these potential deals?
Jorge Sosa, Fernando Martinez and Mike Pelfrey or Phil Humber to the 'Stros for Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge.
Jason Vargas, Aaron Heilman and Ambiorix Burgos or Guillermo Mota to the White Sox for Mark Buerle or to the Cubbies for Carlos Zambrano
The White Sox badly need bullpen help. Houston needs starters and a front-line lefthanded-hitting OF prospect. They would also dump quite a bit of salary.
Lots of prospects for some proven arms.
There is no doubt that the next six weeks will be a fascinating period for Omar Minaya if he is to solidify his stewardship of the Mets. Perhaps there will be no better moment to exemplify the saying, "When the times get tough, the tough get going."