It’s Monday night. The MLB playoffs start tomorrow. The Padres are playing in Denver against the Rockies, of all teams. What are the New York Mets doing? I would guess they’re setting up vacations and tee-times at resorts all over the Caribbean. Four weeks ago from tomorrow, I went and watched the Mets in Cincinnati. They won, and scored eleven runs that night. Sure, it was against the Reds, but with the way they hit that night, I thought there was no better offense in the National League. The crazy thing is, I still don’t think there is a better offense in the National League. It’s just a shame that the pitching let them down during the stretch run. That statement, by no means, takes the offense off the hook, but they were scoring runs in those 11-10 losses to the Nationals in the final week of the season. Where does the blame go? Who won’t be back next year, and what new faces should Met fans expect to see?
Lots of questions, a few answers, and an inordinate amount of bitching after the jump.
Who to blame? There obviously isn’t just one person to put the blame on, so let’s examine some of the major letdowns during the worst collapse in regular season sports history.
The Pitching Staff: Tom Glavine will take a lot of heat for his crap-the-bed performance in the first inning on Sunday. The heat will obviously be well deserved, but Glavine definitely isn’t the only one who performed poorly in September. John Maine had an ERA over six the last two months of the season. Oliver Perez gave up six runs in less than four innings last Friday night in another must-win for the Mets. Closer Billy Wagner was just as bad, he blew five saves this year and his August was embarrassingly bad: 6.23 ERA and three blown saves.
Jose Reyes: I argued countless times over the summer with my cohorts from APIAS.net about how Jose was going to be the next “best player in baseball” after A-Rod had his heyday. Then, while sitting in Great American Ballpark that night in Cincy, I realized something; I’m not sure Reyes cares that much. During that blowout win, he just kind of mailed it in. He knew the Mets were going to win, and he played lazy after about the third inning. This is a small sample from a long season, but his September reflected my beliefs. He hit .205 and had only five stolen bases.
Willie Randolph: Whenever a collapse like this happens, the manager is going to take some serious blame. Randolph never came out in the media and called anyone out, and you never saw him go on a Piniella-like tirade to spark the team. Some would argue that it’s not his style to do those kinds of things. But, when what you are doing is not working AT ALL, sometimes a change in personality isn’t the worst thing in the world. He obviously mis-managed some late-game situations, but every manager made mistakes this year. The bigger problem with Randolph is that he just never seem flustered in the midst of this whole mess. Maybe that’s how he meant to act, but it could have appeared to some that he never really thought they were going to lose.
Omar Minaya: It’s hard to find fault with a guy who has totally revamped a team that Steve Phillips tried his damnedest to run into the ground, but when blame is being tossed about, the GM is going to hear about it. The biggest problem was the inactivity at the trade deadline. Minaya knew the bullpen was wearing down, but chose to not go get help for it. Luis Castillo was a huge help at second (when he played), but bullpen help was a necessity. There weren’t big names out there, but any healthy arm would have been a sight for sore eyes. Combine this with the fact that he doesn’t allow Willie Randolph to pick all his coaches, and Minaya has blame all over his shirt.
Bad Luck: Why did Pedro not get to make his first start until Labor Day? Why did Carlos Delgado have to bust his hand up in the last month of the season limiting his production? Why did Luis Castillo’s legs have to get sore only after he was traded to New York? Why wasn’t Rickey Henderson at least given a shot to play at some point this summer? Was this team cursed after letting go of great clubhouse guy Julio Franco?
Okay, let’s not just put blame on damn near everyone in the organization without offering some solutions. First of all, the Mets need to go and get a legitimate starting pitcher (or two… or three). Pedro is nothing more than a five inning guy at this point, all signs point to Glavine going to Atlanta to finish his career, and Maine and Perez are still young and inconsistent. Minaya could really make people forget about this season if he were able to go and get someone like… Johan Santana. He needs to get on the phone with his agent and convince him to come over this summer. He can put a package together good enough to get the Twins to give him up, since he won’t re-sign after next year anyway.
Santana would give the team an absolute #1, and could be the piece this team lacked this year. When it came down to it, and they needed a win, there was just never a time where you knew, “When _____ is pitching, and we need a win, he’ll get it done.” Glavine could have been that guy yesterday, alas, here’s to 2008.
I hope Jose Reyes takes a look at his late season struggles and figures out the problem there. He could have been considered a top-three candidate for NL MVP in the first half of the season. After that, something happened to where he just wasn’t the same player. Whether it was an effort problem, or pitchers figured him out, or whatever; something has to change next year. For him to make the money he is making, he needs to be the five-tool player he is from April-October. As long as A-Rod doesn’t come to Chicago, the Mets should have the best left side of the infield in the National League for the next five years. If Reyes keeps slacking like that again, Randolph needs to chew his ass until he gets back in the swing of things.
Speaking of Randolph, does he make it back for 2008? I lean towards yes. Who is Minaya really going to bring in that would do a better job? The team seems to play well under him, save September 2007. It’s hard to remember right now, but this team was on the cusp of playing in the World Series eleven months ago. He deserves at least one more year to prove that this collapse was just an anomaly.
This is definitely a make-or-break offseason for New York. They will either go out and get players that will help, forget about what just happened and go out and actually win the division next year. On the other hand, this could be one of those things that lingers with a franchise for years, something they can never get past. I certainly hope not, not with a core of Beltran, Reyes, and Wright all in their prime of their careers.
In closing, I think most Met fans would appreciate if any team not named the Phillies or Yankees could win the Series. Also, can we PLEASE see Johan in Shea next year?