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Wake Me Up After 37 More Games and We'll Talk

Dave MillsThursday, May 22, 2008
By Dave Mills


The first quarter of the 2008 season is three games in the past and the Mets are basically treading water as a .500 team. This probably comes as a surprise to Omar Minaya and the Wilpons, who figured they made two very good deals over the winter to obtain Johan Santana, Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.

Fact is--they did, and those three players are proving their worth. Problem is--except for those three, Billy Wagner and perhaps John Maine, Joe Smith, Jose Feliciano and Duaner Sanchez--everybody else is underperforming to a significant degree. Judgment is reserved on the oft-injured Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez and Ramon Castro.

Brutal as has been the performance of the team to its fans, no one is running away with the NL East and the Highlanders are in last place in the AL East, which always warms the cockles of a Mets fan's heart. Going into Wednesday, only three NL teams had fewer losses than the less-than-Amazins and they are now 3.5 games behind the division leading Florida Marlins. Not exactly a margin that can't be overcome by winning 8 of 10 or so.

Wouldn't it be something, and good for baseball, if the two Florida entries can win their respective divisions? My hope is the Mets win the division and the Fish grab the wildcard. Can it happen? Sure. The Rays are the better of the two Florida teams and it is conceivable that they can pull off a playoff spot in the AL. This might teach GMs around baseball that building from youth and developing a powerful organization is the best way to go. The Highlanders and BoSox, two of the top three payrolls (along with the Mets), have completely screwed up the game. The reason the boo birds are in force everywhere (not just at Shea) are the incredibly high salaries, which are driving up prices and expectations.

If you think the Mets are in bad shape, have a look at the woeful Detroit Tigers. With some attractive acquisitions and the best strategic manager in baseball, the Bengals are wallowing deep in last place. Is it the manager's fault? Not likely, as many pundits rank Jim Leyland as one of the best pure managers of all-time. Instead, his team is dealing with injuries and underperforming "assets." Are there any calls for his head, like the multitude calling for Willie Randolph to be drawn and quartered, not to mention--fired?

While I have never really understood why he was hired in the first place--having been so identified as a Highlander--Willie is not the reason the Mets "assets" are underperforming. Not to say he has no responsibility, or that he has not exacerbated the problem by making some inane statements about race and SNY.

In today's game, what is the role of a manager? Clearly, and for my money, the most advantageous trait for a manager is how he can inspire and motivate these high-priced players to whom a powerful record and a championship may not be quite as meaningful as it once was. Perhaps Lou Piniella is the best model in this regard. Ozzie Guillen is also of the same mold. Interesting that both are currently fielding first place clubs that may be playing slightly over their heads in Chicago. The oft-mentioned Wally Backman appears to be the same sort of feisty character who will kick some butt while fully understanding the game and its various strategic nuances. Backman was truly a gritty player who played with brawn and brains.

Perhaps Willie will prevail and prosper, but it is difficult to imagine that he can endure the trials and tribulations that come with managing high-priced talent in The Big Apple.

There have been a plethora of suggestions as to how to deal with the Mets current malaise. The most interesting have been Carlos Beltran for Matt Holliday and Carlos Delgado for Richie Sexson. Both are intriguing. Sexson appears to have melted down even earlier and worse than Delgado, so it doesn't necessarily make sense to me. However, the Mets could use a potent righthanded bat, especially when Alou is out of the lineup. Speaking of a righthanded bat, Holliday is one of the best players in the game and I would not hesitate to deal for him straight up for Beltran if they both had the same number of years on their contract. Holliday is a free agent at the conclusion of the season and will command mucho dinero. Beltran has a no trade on his contract, so the obstacles are considerable. It is more than interesting to note that the presence of Moises Alou on the roster might actually preclude dealing for Sexson or Holliday.

And with another one of those nagging Alou injuries popping up with Pagan and Church on the shelf, it is time to get serious about whether or not it is wise to sign aging talent, no matter how well they do when they actually play. Castillo and Alou are not really helping the Mets even though their personal numbers will be respectable at the end of the campaign. I would much rather watch Ruben Gotay and Chavez/Pagan in those key roles. Wasn't it Willie who didn't care for Gotay and Jeff Keppinger?

Frankly, the Mets are stuck with Castillo for a long time. Delgado and Alou are history at the end of this season. With Mike Carp, Dan Murphy and Nick Evans ripping up Double A pitching, there are more than a few youthful alternatives playing 1B in the system. Fernando Martinez is also waiting in the wings at Binghamton.

If the Mets can right the ship during the next 37 games or so and get some consistent hitting and bullpen, things should be OK, but someone has to step up and lead. Who and where are the leaders?

About Dave: Dave Mills, born in Kew Gardens, Queens, the day after Willie Mays' circus catch in the 1954 World Series, is a devout Met fan since 1962. The first game he attended was Mets v. Reds at the Polo Grounds on September 14, 1962. With the game tied 9-9 in the 9th, Choo Choo ("Bub") Coleman hit a game-winning walkoff HR down the rightfield line on to the tin roof. The sound is indelibly etched in his memory! Dave lives on Oahu, where he markets and writes about golf. His company, HawaiiGolfDeals.com is the leading deliverer of golfers to the Aloha State. His take on Golf in Australia is in the Oct/Nov issue of Fairways & Greens Magazine.

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Comments (7)

The village idiot who is the general manager of the Met's will probably sign Delgado to a 3 or 4 year extension before the season is over. The he'll probably ru-up Pedro for too much money, and sign Moises to a one year deal this time.

Wake up Wilpon's...time to clean house starting with your GM and half the current roster,

If any other GM is willing to take either Carlos off our hands for a player of the caliber of Matt Holliday, I hope our GM will come to his senses and take them up on it.

I don't think we expect this team to be playing better because they're paid so much. That mindset is best kept in the Bronx where it belongs. I do, however, believe we expect this team to be playing better because we know they can. There are calls in Detroit, by the way, for Leyland's head. It's just a smaller magnifying glass in Motown than the one currently searing Willie's scalp. There's still time left to right the ship, to be sure, but I'm not saying that out loud after hearing the same thing last September. Turn the rudder now - don't wait until you hit the iceberg.

I'm pulling for the Rays this season, not only because their gain would be the Yankees' loss, but because I currently live 90 minutes away from their mostly-empty ballpark. I'm going there this weekend, and might just see our old buddy Steve Trachsel pitching for the O's against them. Good times...

Carlos Beltran would be crazy go nuts to waive his contractural rights and allow himself to be traded for Matt Holiday. What, go to a mostly losing team in the Mountain Time zone, leave New York, replace a local hero? The fact is, if the Rocks can't afford to make a competitive offer to Holiday, they really can't afford to have a major league franchise at all.

When he is healthy I would rather have Carlos anyway. Unfortunately Beltran seems to lose quite a bit of his game to small injury concerns -- or else he has been hurt worse, more often than I have realized. I love watching him play when he is feeling right, however; and with his breadth of skills he should be a valuable player for years to come.

And personally I don't trade Richie Sexton for Carlos Delgato, regardless of which side Sexton stands at the plate. Delgato is a better player than Sexton. The only possible advantage would be the intangible "shake up the team" thing. I would prefer something tangible.

Right with you on the Keppinger-Gotay bit, though.

I would not trade Beltran unless it was for Chase Utley and we know that just aint happening. I agree with dd, that Beltran may be injured. It could still be the knees, or something else, but I can hardly believe he is totally healthy, his numbers indicate such IMO. He is a good talent and proved he can put up the numbers in NY. Delgado on the other hand whom I'd hate to have to come to the reality that he is done. But average and less than average pitchers are blowing fastballs right by him in his wheelhouse, and that aint good. I thought he was getting it together when he made the conscious effort to go to leftfield more, but it seems like he has gotten away from that. He is damn near an automatic out these days and the line-up needs to be juggled to get these guys going. Right now Beltran and Delgado need protection so here's a suggestion:

Reyes
Castillo
Beltran
Wright
Church
Delgado
Alou
Schnieder

I realize a lot of people would question Church and Delgado back to back, but right now he needs to see better pitches as with Beltran, so back them up with Wright and Alou respectively. Fact is no one fears the Mets order and every one is challenging them. Campillo the other night should have been rocked right out of the "Ted", instead he pitched 6 shutout innings, last week Tim Redding keeps the Mets at bay, Pelfrey loses a game 1-0. These are just a few examples of how weak the offense is and nobody is worrying about facing the Mets. Something has to give!

Catman - Minaya is far from the "Village Idiot," as you describe him. My guess is we are unlikely to see acquisitions of aging players in the future except in utility roles. Nothing wrong with a Damon Easley or Darren Oliver. In fact, I wish we still had Oliver. Many of us have short memories. The Mets prospered with Delgado in 2006 and he had a tremendous postseason. However, much like Robbie Alomar, his skills seemed to have faded fast. Alou has seemingly not lost his hitting skills, but he is mostly unable to play due to nagging injuries. That was a well mitigated risk since the Mets gave up nothing. If you look at his other trade acquisitions--Santana, Church and Schneider--they are all mature and in their prime on the south side of 30. His other great acquisitions--Maine and Perez--were about 22/23 at the time. I will take Omar over just about anybody except Billy Beane. Can you imagine what Beane would do with the Mets budget?

NotraDennis - How about a trade? Randolph for Leyland straight-up. We could even throw in Heilman for Nate Robertson in a trade that could serve both teams (I also like Aquilino Lopez and a prospect). Trading those two skippers is really not that far-fetched.

DD - The trade scenario was put forth by Ken Rosenthal of Fox, if I recall correctly. All things being equal (contract and years), I would take Holliday over Beltran simply because of his consistency at the plate. And I have a feeling that most ML execs would do the same. Yes, Beltran has more speed and is a better defensive player, but what do you see is the Mets greatest deficiency? I agree that Sexson is a lesser commodity right now than Delgado, but if Alou is out again for an extended period, the suggestion is certainly interesting.

LJ - I would actually move Beltran up to the second spot with Wright behind followed by Church, Alou, Delgado, Schneider/Castro and Castillo. This puts speed in play at the top of the lineup and gives Beltran some greater protection. He has performed well during his career in that spot. I am not satisfied with Castillo in the second hole right now. I too think Beltran plays injured much of the time. And it appears to me the Mets have often acquired damaged goods, i.e. Beltran, Zambrano, Castillo and others.

AAAAAAY! It's you.
I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that when this team is behind by the seventh inning or later, it's time to wave the white flag.
As far as Willie is concerned: Once a Yankee, always a Yankee, in the sense that I'm convinced that he took the wind out of Reyes's sails by design and has been trying to force-feed him the idea that spontaneous enthusiasm is unprofessional, and that the corporate, no-fun Bronx approach to the game is the way to go. Obviously Jose isn't buying it and will probably return to being the most exciting player in baseball once Willie is gone, unless they bring in a martinet like Buck Showalter.

Mike - I actually floated that skipper swap idea to my Tigers buddy Travis back in late April, and he seemed to be good with it. Throw in a few million PizzaPizzas from Mike Ilitch, and we've got us a deal.

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