Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
As you may have heard, Willie Randolph is no longer the manager of the New York Mets and Omar Minaya handled the firing with the sort of tact and professionalism we've come to expect from this organization. The bottom line is that Wilie is out, which I regard as a good thing, and Jerry Manuel is in, about which I don't really have an opinion. Manuel was 500-471 with one division title in six year as manager of the Chicago White Sox, which sounds decent, but then Willie has a pretty good career record as a manager, too. Based what I heard of Manuel's press conference today, he seems like a reasonably smart guy who is willing to buck conventional baseball wisdom, but we won't really know how good he is at the job until he starts doing it. I don't expect immediate and drastic changes to staring lineups and bullpen roles, but if Manuel could have a word with Omar about adding someone capable of a hitting a home run to his bench, that would be a nice start.
Also relieved of his duties today were pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto. Peterson probably deserves some credit for the development of John Maine, Oliver Perez and the recently solid Mike Pelfrey, but he probably also deserves some blame for Willie's awful bullpen managing. The fact that Mets pitchers have walked more batters per nine innings than the league average each of that last two years also does not reflect well on the team's former "CEO of pitching." I don't know anything about Peterson's replacement, Dan Warthen, but I hope he will work with the staff on throwing strikes, thus getting starters to go deeper into games and taking some pressure off of a bullpen that already shows signs of cracking. As for Nieto, he will be replaced by Ken Oberkfell, who I imagine will do a fine job taking players' batting gloves when they get to first base and yelling "BACK!" on pickoff attempts.
These changes, which also include Sandy Alomar Sr. taking over as bench coach and being replaced as third base coach by Luis Aguayo, won't fix all that ails the Mets. The players still need to, in some cases, play better or, in other cases, be replaced on the roster by better players. But Willie wasn't an asset to the team either tactically or in terms of leadership, so removing him was the right move. Time will tell if it makes any difference.
People, it's bad
Mets starting pitchers over the past seven games: 42 1/3 IP, 40 K, 14 BB, 2 HR, 2.34 ERA.
Games won by the Mets during this stretch: One.
First it was the offense going limp as the Mets lost three straight 2-1 games in San Diego. Once the bats came to life, the bullpen decided to pick up the slack, blowing leads of at least two runs in each of the next four games. Billy Wagner has now blown three saves in a row, including the last two games which featured two of the best Met starts of the year by Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. Yes, that Mike Pelfrey.
These Mets keep finding new ways to lose and keep hovering around .500. They're currently three games under. I think it is time for them to accept that this roster, as currently constructed, is not that of a playoff team. Yes, if Moises Alou, Ryan Church and Orlando Hernandez were healthy and Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado were red hot, they might have a chance to dominate the National League. But those things are about as likely to happen at the same time as a bench featuring Fernando Tatis, Damion Easley, Marlon Anderson and Endy Chavez is to be an offensive asset. At least the Abraham Nuñez era only lasted a week.
If this team is going to contend this year, changes need to be made, not just in the coaching staff, but in the roster as well. The idea of Omar Minaya making trades to try to salvage this season with his job on the line is certainly a scary one, but at least he's not allowed to trade Reese Havens yet. The Mets still have an excellent core in David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana and John Maine, but they can only take the team so far given such a putrid supporting cast. The Mets entered the season without a reasonable backup plan at first base or left field, two positions where they'd pretty obviously need one. Sixty-five games later, they still don't have one. This has led to Tatis starting twelve games at corner outfield positions while hitting .232/.267/.321. Of course the Mets couldn't have predicted Ryan Church would suffer two concussions before the start of summer, but counting on him to be both durable and the team's best hitter wouldn't have made much sense either given his history.
I don't know what the Mets can do to reconfigure this roster that would make a big difference, short of signing a certain career home run leader who will remain nameless to play left field. But thinning the herd of thirty-somethings who aren't hitting on the bench and replacing them with some late twenty-somethings who are hitting in New Orleans is worth a shot. Dumping Nuñez and calling up Chris Aguila, who was hitting .308/.384/.584 at AAA, was a start. Sending Tatis packing and finding a spot for Valentino Pascucci, who's hitting .292/.405/.590, who be a fine second step. If you put enough younger guys on the roster, Willie's bound to start one of them eventually.
The good, the bad and the Nuñez
The Mets organization had some reason to smile entering Thursday, having won three straight series and holding three of the first thirty-three picks in the MLB draft. And Met fans could be forgiven for smiling too after the Mets didn't use any of those top picks on college relief pitchers. In fact, the Mets used only one of their eight picks today on a pitcher, taking right handed starter Bradley Holt from UNC Wilmington with the thirty-third overall pick. Six of their other seven picks were used on college hitters, headlined by Ike Davis, a first baseman/outfielder from Arizona State, at the 18th pick and Reese Havens, a shortstop from the University of South Carolina Columbia, at the 22nd pick. I don't know nearly enough about these guys to have any strong opinions about the Mets' draft thus far, but I do like to see the Mets restocking their barren farm system with hitters. I wouldn't have minded seeing them go for one or two more high risk/high reward high schoolers--Puerto Rican outfielder Javier Rodriguez at 68 was the only one they took out of high school--but I can't fault them for going for safer college players who are closer to being ready for the majors. Just for fun I will point out that Davis hit .355/.418/.612 for his college career and .394/.468/.778 this year. Havens hit .298/.396/.470 for his career and .359/.486/.645 this year.
While I'm cautiously optimistic about the Mets' draft, I can't say the same about their recent major league roster moves. Today they sent down Nick Evans, which is completely reasonable, and called up Abraham Nuñez, which is totally unfathomable. The Mets' roster already has three catchers and no backup outfielder or first baseman, unless you count Fernando Tatis and Damion Easley as either or both of those things, and to this they add the offensive cipher that is Nuñez. Nuñez got 574 at bats for the Phillies over the last two seasons (it's a wonder they didn't win any playoff games) and hit .221/.310/.277. All of these numbers are fairly consistent with a career in which he peaked at a .343 OBP and .361 SLG and had a batting average of .225 or lower in five different seasons. No amount of defense is going to make up for his Neifiesque offense, especially given that he only plays third base, where the Mets don't need a backup, shortstop, where the Mets don't need a backup, and second base, where the Mets already have a backup. Unless Nuñez's job is to boost the self esteem of Luis Castillo and Brian Schneider by comparison, his presence on a major league roster, especially that of a team that fancies itself a contender, is baffling.