DFA: Digging For Answers
After suffering through the pointless spectacle of another Willie Randolph show trial, Mets fans thought maybe the baseball gods would send some temporary relief yesterday. But the Mets defense, pitching and offense let them down again. The Mets malaise can be localized to those three problems, and they did do an excellent job with their elaborate handshakes however, so that's something. The mysterious bottom of the 9th inning delay led me to suspect that stadium crew were busy picking up pieces of the falling sky that littered Shea and impeded the Mets from going meekly as scheduled. Mike Pelfrey again proved to me (alone?) that he is not ready to pitch in a big league rotation. Getting the first two outs of the inning, a cause for celebration otherwise, is an occasion for failure for Big Pelf, who comes up small and probably should not be asked to do much more at this stage of his development. He needs to go back down to the minors for seasoning, or to the bull pen where he can be sheltered and gain confidence. The Mets need to nurture this guy because he could be something special in the future, but he just can't get it done right now. Errant Heilman, perhaps ticketed for a tour of the farm, did ok today, and Reyes produced exactly as many runs as he gave away, so I guess that's progress.
The internet culture we all have so foolishly embraced demands that we subject all things to unbelievable levels of unreasonable scrutiny. Although sports bloggers largely escape the empty narcism and vacuous self-promotion of the rest of the blogging classes (mostly because as meatheads, literary pretensions are unavailable to us ), we do have a habit of making wwaaaayyy to much of trivialities. Now faced with a monstrosity, we're just about out of ammo.
Watching teams from slightly less pressure markets, such as the Br*ves and Fish, kick back with some nice relaxing drubbing of the Mets has made me wonder about cosmic connections between large market pressures, 24 hr/day blogging bozos and team performance (of course illiterate Br*ves fans don't face the pressure to express themselves on the internet, not when their sisters keep giving them the come hither look and they got pig wrestling at the fair this year). At least, it's a reminder that Metropolitans face enormous pressure to fix problems that in other towns may get the time to work themselves out naturally under stable, if more competent, management regimes. It is likely that, in ways we can't understand yet, the Mets as an over-blogged major market team are susceptible to wilting under the tremendous, probably unfair karmic pressure. So let's get on with it!
*Carlos Delgado, paid too much to think or play baseball, needs to become Platoon Leader Delgado asap.
*Mike Pelfrey needs to be sent to someplace where he can develop in peace. He's not ready and although the team is desperate, they can lose the fifth starters games just as easily with Vargas after Pedro comes back for his 2008 cameo.
*Luis Castillo is here to stay, and he's not as much of a detriment to the team as most think. Still give him his required rest and slot in a hungry minor leaguer or someone other than Easley or another retread that strikes no fear in Castillo's heart (if he has one). This might let him know he too can lose playing time, test the theory that no major leaguer likes riding the pine. Failing that, perhaps Stash can come up for a last gasp?
*the bench sucks. This might not seem like a priority seeing how bad the regulars suck, but cleaning house is inevitable here.
*the team needs to try "playing within itself" the mantra of less talented athletes. This just isn't a good team, and I see no evidence that they understand this. They expect a lot, but they're just not capable.
*if the firings are going to start, the Jacket needs to be resized for a fishing jacket too. He has been at the center of some awful personnel decisions, and his ego and stature may get in the way of a re-evaluation of the Mets pitching system. He is just as much a symbol of the malaise in my mind as Willie.
*identify some foolish contenders and start shopping Heilman, Wagner, Perez, Pedro and yes Beltran. At least be ready for the trading deadline, knowing if anyone at all will take these guys for prospects.
Marty "Pants" Noble's latest column puts his crabby finger on a few of the issues gives us an occasion for informed analysis/crankery. Here's what we have with our 2008 Mets:
"Injuries are part of the game, but it is a bigger part when the roster has age. Relying on any one of the three would have made sense. But to depend on all three -- that is, the No. 2 starter in Martinez, a back of the rotation starter in El Duque and a right-handed run-producer in Alou -- to fill regular roles seemed to me to be foolish, particularly with Carlos Delgado having slowed down.
And the re-signing of Luis Castillo -- regardless of the number of years and the amount of money -- has given Randolph a right side of the infield that is significantly less than a contender needs."A lot of people don't think "homegrowing" talent is a strategy that makes much of a difference. And there are arguments to be made for both sides. But big contracts to free agent stars raise expectations, hamper flexibility, and in the case of pitchers, rarely make business sense. And the Mets are staggering under the expectations and the contracts they have given out like candy really have not paid off. Some successful teams just seem to be able to produce such players, but I daresay the Mets are not one of these teams. The trend around baseball does seem to be favoring locking up young stars to long deals to avoid the black market for Bora$ enabled albatrosses. I'd like to see the Mets put some energy into producing a home grown closer and run producing first baseman.
If things get really bad, unthinkable things start to happen--the trading of Beltran or Wagner or other high-priced pieces--and these desperate moves no longer pay off in an era when contending teams jealously guard their prospects.
where to point the finger: Omar
Lack of Team Spirit: Paycheck Passivity
example: Wagner, Willie, and Wright fueled media controversies
This category is hard to quantify without access to the clubhouse. But besides rumors and media crisis mongering, there does seem to be a problem with the players having bought into the program, committing to the team. I can see how infuriating it would be to watch these dopes fiddle with their unnecessary gadgets and then scurry from the clubhouse. The big topics this season: booing, race, etc. have all in a way concerned the perception that this team takes separate cabs. And taxis have not been kind to the Mets in recent years.
"The Mets appear to be in a state of team depression. They respond to positives, but that response is short-lived. Negatives linger. No manager I know has had an effective remedy for that. It's up to the players to get themselves out of it; put away their cellphones and electronic gadgets, talk to each other and not rush to exits when games are over and showers are done."
where to point the finger: AT&T, Omar, modern baseball, the mirror
Unclutchiness is in the eye of the beholder
example: entire team
This timeless problem is endlessly debated on the internet. It only becomes an issue when the club doesn't win. IF there is such a thing as clutch, this team is not it--no Met fan alive expects the team to mount a comeback when down in the late innings. They seem entirely incapable, and there is no way that the team has not internalized this failure. The fact is, no one is stepping up to make the big play, get the big hit, etc. when it counts. "Clutchiness" is not the only way to win, but it would help to build confidence, which along with video games and marijuana is key to the modern athlete's psyche. Maybe the answer is to put yourself in a position to come up big, give luck a chance to happen, by not giving away outs on the base paths and not giving the other team runs by bungling easy plays.
where to point the finger: the players, the baseball gods
Lack of fundamentals
Example: entire team
This is the part that really gets me.
"A potential double-play ground ball bouncing through the legs of Jose Reyes; Reyes being picked off second base in extra innings; Carlos Beltran not cleanly fielding a base hit and thereby allowing a runner to reach scoring position; Johan Santana crossing up his catcher and throwing a wild pitch to advance a runner to scoring position -- none of those is evidence of managerial malfeasance."
where to point the finger: Willie and his staff, players
Unreachable, undisciplined talents
Example: Oliver Perez, Jose Reyes
"Perez is what he's always been, a pendulum pitcher -- seven shutout innings in one start, four runs in the first of the next. He is absolutely unpredictable, unable to deal with adversity and not adequately disciplined. The discipline is the most unsettling aspect of his performance. He has trouble maintaining the mechanics of his delivery and the location of his release. But he exacerbates those problems occasionally by deliberately throwing from a different arm angle...
Jim Frey, the former Cubs and Royals manager, has a phrase for pitchers such as Perez and Victor Zambrano, pitchers who seduce their managers and/or pitching coaches with isolated quality performances: "The kind of pitcher who gets general managers fired.""where to point the finger: entire organization, coaches
Soon, the Mets will have to decide whether to cut bait or wait on some of their more frustrating talents. Who knows what the true impact of a pitching coach is, but here you have to ask questions about the Mets guru. We know he has a system, a reputation, and a way with words, but what exactly is Peterson doing to help? Is he doing too little, or is he doing as much as he can? I dunno. Reyes needs a handholder which is one of very few rationales for having Stash rejoin the team. As yesterdays loss to the Fish demonstrates, Reyes is getting on base is no panacea.