Well, the Mets’ playoff hopes have ended with a resounding thud. And we’re not even into mid August yet.
For the fourth straight season, New York Mets fans will be watching someone else play postseason contests. Following last season’s terrible injury-riddled campaign, Omar Minaya and Jeff Wilpon appeared on WFAN, the Mets’ flagship radio station and declared the results of the past three seasons were unacceptable and Mets fans deserved better. Yet, they pretty much brought the same group of players and coaches back this season. Manager Jerry Manuel, for one, is completely useless as an in-game strategist. I’m tired of seeing close game after close game being blown by Manuel’s mismanaging of the Mets’ pen. The pen isn’t all that great to begin with (thanks Omar), but Jerry has the uncanny ability to leave a guy in too long or take a guy out too quickly. He never seems to have has finger on the pulse of the game. I’ve also grown weary of his all too conservative managing style. The team’s hitting struggles are well known, yet Jerry gives away out after out with ridiculous sacrifice bunts in the early innings. If the Mets’ big boppers were driving in runs at a healthy clip, maybe a sac bunt could be warranted (even then I like to try for the big early inning) but not with this listless group of hitters. Why doesn’t Jerry ever try a hit and run instead? Even with base stealers like Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan on, Jerry will bunt them over rather than go for the steal. I’m fed up with it, and I think many other fans are, too. Yet Jerry and hitting coach Howard Johnson somehow still have jobs. The Mets, 43-32 on June 27, have gone 11-23 since then to fall nine games off the NL East pace. They just went 2-4 on a critical road trip to Atlanta and Philly. They were 2-9 on a West Coast swing before that, they’ve won just two road series all year. It’s time for a change. For the long-term health of the franchise, they’ve got to go in a new direction and I’ve got a few ideas to share.
1. Fire Jerry Manuel, replace him with Wally Backman for the rest of the season: Backman is fiery and stresses fundamentals, I think he should get a shot at trying to squeeze something out of this lifeless group. If the team shows any sign of improvement, sign him up for next season. I honestly believe the team needs a different approach from the manager’s office. Instead of the zen-like, sometimes seemingly comatose Jerry (and before that the laid back Willie Randolph), let’s see if someone can knock some sense into some of these characterless players.
2. Fire Omar Minaya, replace him with a young forward-thinking GM like Texas’ Jon Daniels: Actually this should be number one, but I’m pretty sure the manager will go before Omar so I listed that first in the pecking order. Omar has worn out his welcome here, although he still seems to have the ear and support of idiot owners Fred and wonderboy son Jeff Wilpon, so this might not happen as soon as Mets fans would hope. Omar has made some good moves during his tenure, but just as many bad or terrible moves. Any moron could tell you signing Oliver Perez to a three-year, $36 million contract was a dumb idea. In fact, no one else seemed remotely interested in a longterm deal with Perez at the time. Yet Omar jumped at the chance, and the Mets have gotten nothing on that investment. Holding on to Perez has been an even dumber decision, as the Wilpons just don’t seem willing to eat the salary despite getting little hope of any future production from the airheaded lefty. Giving one-dimensional and failing-in-health second baseman Luis Castillo a four-year contract after the 2007 season was another move I hated at the time (I hate it 20 times as much now, since Sir Limps A Lot can’t hit and can’t move all too well anymore, not to mention his shaky D). Immovable contracts cripple a team, and not surprisingly no team in its right mind has any interest in these two when Omar has tried repeatedly to deal them. I know not GM is going to be perfect, but I’d say just about any other GM in baseball would not have made these two moves, which is something that definitely scares me about Omar.
3. Eat the contracts and cut Castillo and Perez: See post No. 2. These two guys aren’t going to produce, time to eat the salaries. If you can somehow package them with a few prospects to take on another team’s big salary (Carlos Zambrano, Chone Figgins) it would have to be considered. Just get them the hell away from my baseball team.
4. This one is more controversial: Consider trading David Wright or Jose Reyes for young MLB-ready pitching. I’ve been a big fan of Wright and Reyes since they came up, but it might be time to at least dangle them around and see what is offered. I’d be more inclined to hang on to Reyes than Wright, since shortstop generally is a harder position to fill than third, but the deal would have to bring back a young top-of-the rotation type starter back. I’m thinking Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, Matt Garza of the Rays, Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins would be decent targets. In some cases (especially since the Rays already have Longoria and the Marlins never take on salary) you’d have to bring in a third team to broker the deal. I’m not saying definitely do it, but I would certainly give it some thought. I’m growing tired of seeing Wright fail late in close games, and I think his hitting approach has gone down the tubes the last two years (as strikeouts mount up). He’s becoming more of a streaky power hitter than the line-drive gap to gap hitter he came up as. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m getting the sinking feeling I’m right, so it may be time to cut the cord here. The Mets have solid hitting prospects in the minors that could help offset the loss of Wright, but questionable young pitching outside Jenrry Mejia. If you could bring back a MLB-ready pitcher and perhaps a lower level pitching prospect or two in a trade for Wright, you’d have to think about it.
That’s all the venting I have for now. I doubt any of this stuff actually happens soon, but it’s time to change the direction of this rudderless ship. Ever since Carlos Beltran took that curve from Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, this team’s fortunes have been headed into a downward spiral. Something must be done.