Monday, May 17, 2010

It's panic time. Again.

I guess this is the point of the roller coaster where you scream on the way down.

As I mentioned in a post last week, the Mets' season is going to be a crazy ride whether we like it or not, with plenty of highs and lows. The question of the moment is whether the current drop has hit rock bottom.

Not surprisingly, there are seemingly few among the fans/media willing to weather this current (or, frankly, any) storm. The same people glowing about the Mets during their winning homestand are now wondering again when Jerry will be fired, as if Jon Niese's hamstring injury or Oliver Perez's "Ollieness" or John Maine's sudden inability to throw strikes is somehow his fault.

To his credit, Jerry heeded the call of just about everyone watching this team and returned Jose Reyes to the leadoff spot this weekend (he still refuses to bat Wright third), but that didn't prevent the Mets from being swept by the Marlins. Hence, panic time in Flushing.

Some facts:

There are 124 games remaining, just over 3/4 of the season.

The Mets are four games out of the Wild Card spot currently held by the Giants. They are indeed in last place in the division. They are also 2 games out of second. In May.

Oliver Perez is no longer starting for this team and likely will not again.

David Wright -- who has gone through two ice-cold stretches already and will likely strike out more than 140 times -- still projects to 30 HR, 100+ RBI, 30 steals and 100+ walks, and around .300 (career average: .307).

The Phillies just sent Brad Lidge to the DL. Again.

John Maine, in his three starts prior to Saturday, put up the following lines:
  • 6 IP, 4 hits, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K
  • 6 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
  • 6 IP, 7 hits, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K

Some opinions:

To be scoreboard watching at this early stage of the season is ridiculous, but if you look at the teams the Mets would be competing with for a wild card, do any of them scare you? Assuming the Cardinals and Giants go on to win their divisions, who are we talking about? The Reds, Cubs, Padres, Brewers and the rest of the NL East. OK, maybe the Dodgers.

All teams that have either shown something this season or have the talent to make the playoffs, but all with their own issues. Just like the Mets.

Perez, who won't go to the minors, is playing his way off the team. Omar Minaya will soon have no choice but to release him, because Perez has only three paths ahead of him:
  1. Work out his problems in the bullpen and return to the rotation.
  2. Figure out a way to be effective in the bullpen as a long man / situational lefty.
  3. Released outright.

Option 1 is unlikely, and Option 2 is a possibility but no one is holding his breath. Which leaves Option 3, which will leave Omar with egg on his face, but he's not looking good these days anyway, having rolled the dice on this starting staff without bringing in one other starter to compete for a spot in the rotation. You've got to cut your losses at some point, and that point is fast approaching with Perez.

I refuse to link to the article because it's such nonsense, but there is a column in a NYC daily that claims no one on this team has any trade value other than Santana, although trading everyone would be the right answer. I know you have to sell papers, but please. He also advocates starting Chris Carter over Jeff Francoeur, for more than just a game or two.

Because that's how a guy -- with a well-established reputation as being streaky -- breaks out of a slump. By benching him and his terrific defense for another guy who's a classic AAAA hitter who cannot field a position. Sure. Makes sense to me.

The new closer for the Phillies is -- Jose Contreras. Yes, he's pitching great now, but does anyone think that is sustainable? And Brad Lidge is perilously close to being D-U-N done. The Phillies will be dealing with bullpen issues for the rest of the season, so forgive me not for giving them the division on May 17.

But SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE! Heads must roll! Blame must be laid! The owners are flying to Atlanta!

Here are a couple of suggestions:

Bat Wright third. Despite his up-and-down season and strikeouts, with no Beltran, he is the Mets' best hitter and that's who your third hitter should be. Angel Pagan is a good player, but he's the third of three tablesetter-types at the top of the order, and that's one too many. Move him to sixth ahead of Francoeur and Barajas (yes, in that order). Bay is starting to hit again, and we can only look to his career numbers and assume that the power will follow.

Stop batting guys like Chris Carter fourth. It's preposterous. You like a lefty there, bat Davis fourth. I like Jerry on the whole, but his lineups sometimes are beyond baffling.

As far as Francoeur goes, he'll break out of the slump at some point, but when Beltran comes back, Frenchy is likely the odd man out, or at least he'll end up in a three-man rotation with Beltran and Pagan. He's also the most expendable long-term, unless he somehow bounces back big-time with the bat. Fans and the front office may like him, but no one is married to him. That said, to just exile him to the bench right now is silly.

The injury to Niese is a big wrinkle, but there are signs that it may not be more than a 1- or 2-start thing. If that is the case, the question becomes who replaces Perez in the rotation? It's a tough one because while Hisanori Takahaski was a starter in Japan, he has been excellent in the bullpen, and moving him could hurt the pen for the chance of filling the void in the rotation.

Pat Misch and Dillon Gee could be given the chance to step up and fill the spot, with Takahashi staying where he has been so good. Which means (and I said this on April 19) Jennry Mejia should be sent to Buffalo or Binghamton to start stretching out and resume being a starter. This team could really use him in that role, as opposed to just another right arm in the pen.

And that's what it all comes down to. Starting pitching. When the Mets were hot, the starting pitching was great. In the last week, it's been bad, and losses followed. It's really that simple.

You can say all you want about Minaya's other moves and decisions (Matthews Jr., Castillo, Cora, etc.) but his job comes down to two things: signing Perez and not signing any other starters this off-season.

He took a gamble that the players he had were as good as what was available, and that's looking like a bad bet. Which means it is imperative for him to find someone who can help this season. I'm not talking about a free agent or Pedro Martinez, but a starter acquired via a trade.

Who can he trade? Francoeur, Murphy, and one of several minor leaguers are possibilities, but the most likely scenario is the Mets eating a contract to get a veteran pitcher from a team looking to cut payroll, which theoretically shouldn't cost too much in talent.

Whether the Wilpons will agree to that is unknown, but with so many empty seats and a furious desire -- expressed by the fans as well as the team itself -- to see the Mets' fortunes improve, you'd think that the owners would be willing to do almost anything at this point to turn things around.


  1. 4th place....thats where we finish this year....2 games ahead of the Braves...we Reyes while he still has value and rebuild around Ike and Johan....we should be selling not buying come the trade deadline...

  2. It's a little early to be talking about the trade deadline, and there is no reason to trade Reyes. Deep breaths.