Out on a Limb

Well, I haven’t posted in a while.  That’s because I was busy fishing for tree limbs in Lake George, NY.  But, thanks to the fickle Adirondack weather, I still had plenty of time to follow the Mets.  Here’s a quick summary of where they stand now:

Starting Pitching: Check

Lineup: Check

Bench: Check

Energy Provided By Young Players: Check (Thanks, Messrs Murphy, Evans, A. Reyes)

Manager and Coaching Staff: Check

Bullpen: In dire need of a miracle

The bullpen was bad enough, but now they are hopeless without Billy Wagner.  And Wagner’s elbow pain raises all kinds of red flags.  Pain + Joint + 37 years old = possible season ending injury.  But we’ll let the doctor decide.

 It would be swell if Luis Ayala can jump in and return to his 2006 form, but he hasn’t had his 2006 form since…2006.  It was worth the risk, not that Anderson Hernandez is much of a risk, but the Mets need some stability in the bullpen, or else Johan Santana better get used to pitching complete games.

Fortunately for the Mets, the rest of the NL East has issues as well.  The Mets have a good a chance as anyone to win the division, and they just might do it.  And that’s not going out on a limb.

Santana Holding up His End of the Bargain

In what has been a season of thorough frustration wrought with inconsistency, streakiness, and turmoil, the most infuriating trait of the 2008 Mets has been the number of starts by Johan Santana that have gone wasted.

Don’t listen to the blowhards in the sports media – Santana has had a Santana-like season.
johan-santana-4.jpg  He has a 2.86 ERA, and has led the Mets in innings pitched and strikeouts all season.  He has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 19 of his 23 starts.  That should be enough to win – the Mets are averaging 4.86 runs per game this season.  The bullpen has blown 5 games in which Santana has left with the lead, and lost three of them.  Taking into account both of these factors, Santana could easily have 15 wins.

What else can he do?  Those who cry that he should pitch a complete game every five days because of how much he’s being paid are insane.  Is there some sort of ratio of dollars to innings pitched I’m not aware of?  Is this a new sabermetric statistic?

One wonders if Santana looks at the standings and sees the team he was traded from is in first place by a half game in the AL Central, and the team he was traded to is three games back.  Does he ever regret coming to Queens?  I would.

Imagine where the Twins would be with Santana right now.  It’s not like the Twins got any immediate value out of their trade with the Mets.  Carlos Gomez is the only player dealt to Minnesota who has contributed at the major league level this year, but hasn’t been much of a factor.  His .287 OBP would have gotten him booed off the field every day at Shea Stadium.  Santana, however, would have Minnesota up by five games by now – and he’d be celebrated in the sports media, free of the microscope of New York.

There’s no real magic, secret solution to the Mets’ struggles this year.  It’s simple.  When Johan Santana leaves the game with a lead, or gives up three or fewer earned runs, WIN THE GAME.  If New York can do that, they can run away with the division.  If they can’t, it’s going to be an uphill climb.

No Trade, but Future is Intact

The best move Omar Minaya made at the non-waiver trade deadline was no move.  He refused to part with the Mets’ top prospects in return for players that may or may not have had an impact on the team’s short term future or long term future. 

The Mets needed depth in the outfield, and, more desperately, needed help in the bullpen, which is the team’s weakest link.  But, the Mets are only one game back of the Phillies with the pieces they have.  If they get Ryan Church back, there’s your outfield solution.  And, it is possible to make a trade until August 31st, as long as the players clear waivers, which is a strong possibility.  So why sell what’s left of the farm system for a player that may or may not be the difference in 2008? 

What the Mets have now, is a good balance.  They are contenders in 2008, and, thanks to prospects like John Niese, Fernando Martinez, and Eddie Kunz, and current young stars like David Wright, Jose Reyes, John Maine, and Mike Pelfrey, they should remain contenders for years to come. 

Like the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Rays, and Yankees of the late nineties proved, the key to success is to grow and harvest your own talent.  Trades and free agent signings should only enhance what you have already. 

Now, the Mets should try to win with what they have, and build up their farm system for the future.

Gary, Keith, and Ron

I’d like to throw in a plug for GaryKeithandRon.com. They are selling merchandise to benefit their favorite charities.  I picked up a couple of t-shirts (who can resist the number 17 with a mustache on it?) and you should too.  Check it out.

Pre-Deadline Advice for Omar Minaya

Hey Omar.  Long time, no talk.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the talk about the Mets’ need for a corner outfielder heading into the trade deadline.  You know that we could definitely stand to shore up that position.  However, with Carlos Delgado bursting from hibernation, and Jose Reyes and David Wright producing consistently, not to mention the efforts of unsung players like Fernando Tatis, the Mets offense is passable right now.  What we really need is help in the bullpen. 

The Mets need a solid, Huston-Street-like right-handed reliever to pitch the eighth inning and set up Bily Wagner.  Let’s say, someone like former Longhorn, Huston Street.  He’s being shopped by Oakland, and the Mets should take a good look at him.  Rumor has it, you’ve already been taking a gander at Cla Meredith and Chad Bradford. 

huston-street3.jpgThe latter is intriguing, because of how well Bradford pitched for the Mets in 2006, and how well he has pitched since.  I know, I know, you let him go after 2006, because you weren’t sure his back would hold up.  But since joining the Orioles, it has, and so has his ERA. 

Neither Meredith nor Bradford are much better than the options the Mets have now for the eighth inning.  Duaner Sanchez has shown flashes of brilliance, but is too inconsistent.  However, getting a strong right-handed reliever for the sixth and seventh innings would be a huge fortification for the bullpen.

So, Omar, if you are reading this (and I know you always do), here is your priority list:

  1. Huston Street (though, if he comes to the Mets, he’ll have to change his name to How-sten Street.  Get it?  Local Reference?  No?  Ok.)
  2. Chad Bradford
  3. Cla Meredith

You have your assignment, Omar.  Now, go get ’em.

Oh, one more thing.  If you have to give up Fernando Martinez, John Neise, Mike Pelfrey, or any other of your top prospects, forget about it.  We’ll make due with what we have so we can preserve our future.

That is all.

No Complaints

For the first time all season, I have no complaints about the New York Mets. 

For some reason, the Mets are in first place.  By a strange coincidence, Carlos Delgado is hitting as well as he did in 2006.  As it turns out, Oliver Perez may be the Mets’ best starting pitcher right now.  And, by an act of Providence, the decision to replace Willie Randolph with Jerry Manuel actually paid off.

OliverPerez.jpgTwo days ago, I gave up on the season.  It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last.  But today, the Mets are what we thought they were going to be.  The starting pitching has been solid, and has gobbled way more innings than they used to.  The bullpen has at least been effective every now and then, as opposed to never.  Billy Wagner is back to being automatic in the ninth.  And the lineup is producing runs.

Carlos Delgado is the difference maker in this lineup.  Yes, Jose Reyes needs to get on base, which he has to a tune of a .360 OBP.  Yes, David Wright has to be the Mets’ best hitter.  But when Delgado is producing, the Mets suddenly have a legitimate cleanup hitter.  That takes pressure off both Wright and Carlos Beltran.

So, on July 24th, the Mets are in first place.  Be sure to expect a horse race the rest of the way between the Mets, Phillies, and maybe the Marlins, if their starting pitching can hold up.  The Mets need to fend off both teams, and Father Time, if they want to be in it until the end.

Billy Wagner

OK, so maybe I overreacted last night.  I probably wasn’t the only one.  But for anyone who doubted the talents of Billy Wagner (You know who you are…Benigno and Roberts, and the
billy-wagner-pinn.jpgrest of you brain-dead WFAN callers), the bullpen is lost without Wagner.  Number 13 is the closest thing to a sure thing in the Mets’ ‘pen.  Except for about 5 or 6 games a year, you know that the ninth inning is safe with Wagner.  Even Mariano blows saves every now and then.  Fortunately for the Mets, Wagner was back tonight.  And he helped erase the memory of the devastating loss on Tuesday night.


Collapse II

So what happens on a day when your ace gives you 8 solid innings of 2-run ball against your fiercest divisional opponent and leaves with a three-run lead?  Why, your bullpen blows the game in the ninth, of course.  And in spectacular fashion.  It wasn’t just a failure, it was a failure of EPIC proportions. 

Maybe Jerry Manuel should have left Johan Santana in, but I agree with his decision.  Santana’s outs in the eighth inning were hard outs.  A line drive, a deep fly ball to Beltran, not to mention the line-drive double (following a foul line drive) by Pat Burrell.

In any event, teams do not recover from losses like this.  I’ve given up on this season before, only to see the Mets battle back into contention.  But they won’t overcome this loss.  Time to think about 2009.

And yes, I am ripping off Mets Blog with the Charlie Brown pic.