By Dave Mills
The second guessers are coming out in droves. As if its not bad enough to have experienced the pain and suffering of the past two Septembers, we now have to listen to a laundry list of reasons and less than expert fixes.
Joel Sherman of the Post suggests trading Jose Reyes. Others suggest moving Beltran and there has even been some innuendo regarding moving David Wright. Sheer and utter madness!
There is not a more talented left side of an infield in MLB. Period. Even better, both are under 26 or under and, barring serious injury, are both potential candidates for MVP, batting championships, gold gloves and even the Hall of Fame. They are also signed to very reasonable contracts for the next three to four years.
Sorry Joel, I don't care that you're looking to create some sizzle and pen a column with more edge than the rest of the field, but most of us have watched these two guys from the low minors and really like what we see. Real Mets fans do not get paid to comment. We pay to watch and be entertained. The Mets without Reyes and/or Wright would be far less entertaining. However, the Post, with or without Joel Sherman, is still a rag.
The Mets were flat out unlucky this season. While Omar could be faulted for relying on Moises Alou to man leftfield, he also went out and got a very talented rightfielder who plays hard and ended up seriously injured for most of the season. Ryan Church was arguably the Mets best player for the first seven weeks of a trying season. He excelled at every facet of the game and looked like he would have been the fourth member of the lineup to have had 25 HR and over 100 RBI.
Minaya nurtured the resurrection of Fernando Tatis. He signed him early in the 2007 season and rehabilitated his career with a season and then some at New Orleans. Upon joining the Mets in 2008, he was just what the doctor ordered, providing clutch hitting for power, surprising speed and better than decent outfield defense, especially for an infielder. During a remarkable midseason stretch he, Damion Easley and Ramon Castro quite literally carried the Mets offense. With less than three weeks remaining in the season, a separated shoulder ended Tatis' season and took an integral part of the offense with him.
A pretty good argument can be made that had just one of the injuries not occurred to either Alou, Church or Tatis, the Mets go to the postseason no matter what the bullpen configuration.
Injuries to the pitching staff were particularly profound as well. Losing Pedro to an injury that was compounded by his father's demise, along with Billy Wagner and John Maine going down during the stretch run, was reasonably profound and certainly consequential. As it turned out, it appears that Heilman had played through an injury all season, just as Schoeneweis had done in 2007.
Sometimes, bad luck comes knocking.
Nonetheless, the truly underachieving were not many. That list is led by Luis Castillo, Heilman and Pedro, all of whom apparently dealt with injury issues and difficult times.
As opposed to Carlos Delgado's very slow start, Duaner Sanchez was out of the gate with a fire in his belly. It didn't last. Perhaps he was used too much especially coming off his extensive injuries and rehabilitation? But it sure seemed like the entire bullpen fell prey to the lack of duration by the starting staff. And of course, El Duque missed the entire 2008 campaign.
Like the outfield, had just one of this trio--Pedro, El Duque or Wagner--not been injured, we likely would have seen the Mets in the postseason.
This is not an attempt at making excuses, just a rational way of looking at the 2008 season, so as to not promote doing something rash, like listening to Mike Francesa spew forth his particular brand of disinformation. Apparently, he has sources who tell him Ryan Church couldn't stand playing in NY. Yeh, he'd prefer to be back in a Washington uniform playing against opponents having a meaningful September.
The fixes are not really that difficult.
First, the Mets just did what they had to do and rehired Jery Manuel. He is a very competent manager, has the respect of his players and knew how to handle the rigors of the NY media.
Second is second. The Mets need a quality second sacker and at least two 31-year-olds could easily fill the bill. Orlando Hudson is available as a free agent and it would be difficult to imagine that Brian Roberts could not be available from the Orioles. Both of these players can deliver hits, runs, some pop, sa few stolen bases and very good gloves. They also appear to be leadership types. Perhaps a package of Heilman, Schoeneweis, Argenis Reyes and Nick Evans for Roberts? The O's might also be interested in Delgado, in which case the Mets can platoon Murphy or Carp with Evans at 1B.
Third -- how about a feast of four talented free-agent southpaws: Brian Fuentes, Joe Biemel, Darren Oliver and Jamie Moyer. While Fuentes will be expensive, he will be far less costly than Francisco Rodriguez. The other three should be quite reasonable. Signing the 46-year old Moyer is a no-brainer since the Mets were 1-6 against him this past season. He will likely pitch to 50.
Last, but not least, Omar must try to acquire Huston Street from Billy Beane, who will want some serious young talent like Daniel Murphy or Fernando Martinez. I would refrain from trading either prospect for a pitcher, but what about Church, Duaner Sanchez and a low prospect? One thing is proven by the injury to Wagner--a team must have a backup closer. Street has walked that beat.
What Minaya does with Castillo and Marlon Anderson is anybody's guess? Re-signing Tatis and Easley to compliment Endy Chavez on a talented bench seems logical, as does a bullpen of Fuentes, Street, Biemel, Stokes, Feliciano, Smith and Oliver.
Which leaves the starting staff...
Santana, Maine, Moyer, Pelfrey and...
Let Oliver Perez and a $15+ million a year deal take a walk. Seems to this Mets watcher that Pedro will find some way to win if his health is OK. An incentive laden contract is the only way to go. If not, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell look like legitimate prospects with Dillon Gee not far behind. Of course, they can sign Kyle Lohse at a much higher price than last winter.