By Dave Mills
Understanding that hindsight is 20/20, much of the blame for the present travails of the Mets falls squarely on personnel decisions that should have been dealt with very differently.
We will never now for sure which decisions can be attributed to whom, but Omar Minaya is the final arbiter on the roster.
True, we are only eight games into the season.
True, there have been a few positives (the Francoeur deal continues to look great, D. Wright seems to have his power stroke back, Big Pelf's new split finger looks terrific and the bullpen has looked surprisingly deep).
True, the 1969 Mets and other championship teams have had equally poor starts.
But many of us are just plain curious...
THE CURIOUS CASE OF JOHN MAINE
Clearly, Maine's fastball is not what it once was. And for a 29-year-old, that spells trouble. The loss of velocity was obvious all spring and no one was fooled. Yet, there was Maine in the 2nd spot in the rotation. Coming off an injury season and surgery, Omar could have opted for an extended spring that would have included a month to six weeks of experimental starts at Buffalo instead of in The Show. There were two viable right-handed options (Figueroa and Nieve), two valuable left-handed options (Misch and Takahashi) and a knuckleballer in RA Dickey (complete game tonight in Buffalo), who would have introduced an entirely different and plausible look to the Mets rotation. And with so many viable options, the same argument can be made in terms of Oliver Perez.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF CHRIS CARTER
Perhaps no one in the Mets system rakes like Chris Carter, who has been given the moniker of "The Animal" by his fellow players. By ALL accounts, Carter's work ethic and bulldog approach is unparalleled in Metsville. Tonight, he went 4 for 4 at Buffalo. All spring, Carter put his wares on display and received rave reviews. So, why in Buffalo and not at Citi Field? Omar says poor Chris was just unlucky to have several options remaining. Compounding the issue was the injury to Daniel Murphy, which should have made the decision to keep Carter even easier. But no. Instead, the Mets chose to go with Mike Jacobs, who is a good guy, but we all know what he can and cannot do. Perhaps he delivers a bit more leather, but he is nothing more than than average. Carter is probably average or slightly worse. And even with Jacobs in the mix, why is Frank Catalanotto on the roster rather than Carter, especially when it appears Manuel is using Catalanotto only for pinch-hitting duty and the occasional double switch in LF and 1B, the two spots Carter also plays?
THE CURIOUS CASE OF GARY MATTHEWS JR.
In spite of the Beltran setback and surgery, the Mets had a younger, faster, better-hitting version of this guy for roughly the same cost. Again, we could have had the far better hitting Carter, in a utility and pinch-hitting role, instead of the older version of Angel Pagan (who needs to play every day during Beltran's absence, which is likely to last through all of May). The only logical explanation for keeping Matthews around is that the Mets can shop both Pagan and Matthews upon the imminent return of Beltran and make the best available deal, assuming one presents itself.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF JENNRY MEIJA
Here, it is likely Jerry Manuel got his way and put young Meija (20 years old) on the roster in a minor bullpen role with the hopes of having an 8th Inning setup guy by the end of May. Those of us who were arguing to keep him a starter and get more seasoning were somewhat perplexed that Omar allowed Jerry to get his way. We need starters now and in the future. There are plenty of bullpen options always available and the Mets have stockpiled Manny Acosta, Elmer Dessens and Kiko Calero, among others, at Buffalo. And just today, there is talk, emanating from the Mets (Manuel in particular), that maybe they are better off letting Meija stretch it out as a starter in Binghamton. There's a revelation. There are other reasons that are pretty compelling, not the least of which is, why start the arbitration/free-agency clock earlier than necessary? The Mets have now done just that with Meija and Tejada, but are clearly trying to keep the issue at bay with the high-upside Ike Davis by keeping him on the farm. So, how did the Meija two-pitch, walk-off HR to the Rockies help his development?
If the Mets are to make some wholesale changes that pack a wallop, they need to decide how the starting rotation shakes out and they may need to decide quickly. Santana/Misch/Pelfrey/Neise/Takahashi or Santana/Pelfrey/Niese/Dickey/Misch will do better than what they are throwing out there right now. The scrap pile of Jarred Washburn, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz will be of no use to this club. By and by, Joel Piniero looked pretty good against the Highlanders.
Adding Dessens and Acosta to the bullpen to replace Meija and/or Takahashi adds proven veteran arms and allows Meija to pursue the starting ranks where he currently belongs.
Releasing Jacobs or Catalanotto and putting Carter in a 1B platoon with Fernando Tatis should be a no-brainer until Murphy returns. After Jacobs' poor play around the sack today, what are they waiting for?
One of the things that really makes Mets fans cringe is never seeing our players among the league leaders in any positive category and it is hard to imagine any current Met leading the league, no less MLB in any category this year, especially with Jose Reyes likely to be doing a lot less base stealing,K-Rod without a save and Jason Bay with one RBI and no HRs.
Nothing placates the faithful more than seeing heads roll at the top. And in NY, such cries are going to get louder and louder and will deeply affect everyone connected with the team. Did you see Maine and Manuel the past two days? Omar seems to be AWOL.
Getting rid of Manuel is not going to solve the problems, but getting rid of Minaya, Manuel and perhaps Dan Warthen will stir the pot and buy some time for ownership to avert what could be a potentially disastrous season. No one will really care who replaces Omar, but the faithful want Wally Backman (and not Oberkfell, Collins or Melvin) in the dugout. Wally may be just the right man for a team that needs motivation and he has a powerful Mets identity. And what about Bobby Ojeda to replace Warthen? Not likely, but the man sure knows how to analyze the mechanics of pitching.
The real folks who have to go are the owners.
Fred, Jeff and Saul--Please sell and lets get owners who are truly dedicated to getting the job done.