What’s Next?

You may have noticed I’ve been quiet here lately.

Truth is, I’m not sure what to think about what’s going on with the Mets right now.

On the one hand, I’m not out on the ledge thinking that the season is trashed — I recognize that it is still very early in the season, the Mets are only a few games out of first, and there’s plenty of baseball to play.

However, there are many things broiling in the crucible right now, and it feels like everything is going to come to a head very soon. What that means, I’m not sure, but I have a really bad feeling that Willie Randolph will be the scapegoat — and I’m not sure he should be. After all, is it Willie’s fault that the Mets score 12 runs on one day and then can’t muster more than three in two games the next? Is it Willie’s fault that Aaron Heilman looks like a lost cause? That Pedro and El Duque are injured? That Ollie Perez can’t pitch consistently? I’m not sure.

After sweeping the Yankees, it’s been a tense few days. Willie makes some self-damaging comments, backs off them, then loses a doubleheader to the Braves. His status as manager was wavering before the weekend, seemed to “save his job” by beating the tar out of the Yankees, then immediately goes back to hot seat. In addition, the press has been pounding the fact that the Mets have been a mediocre .500 team for nearly a year — and David Wright admits as much. Adding injury to insult, the Mets MVP thus far, Ryan Church, suffered his second concussion this spring and likely will be out for a while. What will happen next?

If the Mets don’t take the next two games from the Braves, there could be some sweeping changes taking place. Maybe something similar to what Steve Phillips did to Bobby Valentine back in 1999, firing his entire coaching staff. Maybe Aaron Heilman and Carlos Delgado get dealt for a difference-maker, though I don’t see how that’s possible. Maybe Willie is given a public ultimatum.

Hopefully, the Mets will go on a hot streak, and put an end to the tension. I’m not liking the current feeling.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Micalpalyn May 21, 2008 at 12:06 pm
    Metsblog: ………However, according to Jon Heyman in a report for SI.com, Jeff Wilpon recently called Randolph and Omar Minaya together ‘for a serious pep talk,’ and basically told them that the team must turn it around quickly.

    Heyman also notes that, while club officials have loosely discussed potential replacements, such as bench coach Jerry Manuel, “Minaya recently told an executive from another team that Randolph isn’t going anywhere.”

    my interpretation: While willie has Omar’s support, jeff Wilpon’s noted lack of support could soon win out, thus Willie’s viewed paranoia. I think the sitauation as noted in any managerial contoversy affects the teams play on the field. You point to the BV 1999 episode,. And it has similarity, BUT I will add the post 2001 assessment in which it was IMMEDIATELY assessed that BV was in danger, and it eventually happened. As such I think the outcome might be moot and that…gives us the on field product.

    Metsblog: This team has far too much talent to have a 22-21 record and play in such an inconsistent manner. Yes, the players do play the game and should take full responsibility for their on field play, however it’s the manager who sets the message and clearly Willie Randolph’s message may not be resonating in the clubhouse anymore.
    Interpretation: The talent is there but the leadership is not (?) At least that’s what that statement implies.

    I might add the Yanks are suffering similarly. THEY DO have the highest payroll anywhere despite a systematic purge so talk of rookies in important slots is moot.

    With or without Willie the Mets are built very, very well. Reyes, DW, Beltran, Santana, Maine, Ollie, Pelfrey, Church, Schneider, Castro, Sanchez, …with Fmart, Muniz, Kunz, Murphy, Tejada, Pena and Carp as potential future players is not a bad organization.

    I have other thoughts, but essentiallly Jeff Wilpon’s and Omar’s thoughts are the one’s that ultimately will decide this issue.

  2. isuzudude May 21, 2008 at 12:52 pm
    I sympathize with how you’re feeling, Joe. I don’t think there’s one Met fan not in the same boat as yourself, it’s just that we all choose to deal with it in our own way. Some boo and call for Willie’s head at every opportunity, others lend support and stick up for the players, and others just don’t care anymore and are becoming numb to the rollercoaster ride known as Mets baseball.

    It’s simply impossible to put a finger on exactly what is making this team play so poorly. What’s for sure, though, is that it is not one single thing. Willie does and should shoulder some of the blame, but not all. The coaches are also to blame. As is Omar. As are the players. As is bad luck and injury. It just seems like whatever can go wrong, will go wrong – like there’s a jinx on the team. As a fan, there’s no reason to feel confident anymore. We’ve seen it far too many times to interpret a weekend sweep over the Yankees, or an air-clearing team meeting, or a vote of confidence from ownership or management as a prelude to a winning streak. It’s as if, instead of finding reasons to want to win, they find excuses for why they lose. And that’s an ass-backwards philosophy. And I, for one, am tired of making excuses for a team that is not holding up their end of the bargain in this “team/fan” relationship. The bottom line is that I want to see them win, having fun, and kicking the crap out of teams I hate. And I think they should try to achieve those goals by any means necessary, reasonably speaking (which rules out trading Delgado for Pujols or re-hiring Bobby Valentine). So, if that means firing Willie mid-season, or firing the entire coaching staff, or issuing an ultimatum, so be it. WHATEVER IT TAKES.

  3. Micalpalyn May 21, 2008 at 2:08 pm
    Dude: are u hearing yourself? ‘ I sympathize with how you’re feeling, Joe” YOU are hurting too!

    BTW: I’d like to see Wally back in this organization, whether or on the farm or at Shea.

  4. JIMMYJ723 May 21, 2008 at 4:01 pm
    Why do we score 12 runs one day and 2 runs the next? Because we sit around waiting for the big hit, instead of manufacturing runs, I’ve said this over and over and over. We need to play “small ball” on the days our bats are struggling, but we don’t. Who’s fault is that? WILLIE RANDOLPH’S. Our pitching is solid, except for Aaron Hielman. But is Hielman bringing himself into tight situations? No, it’s WILLIE RANDOLPH. Blame the players if you’d like, but who’s responsibility is it to get them to play winning baseball? WILLIE RANDOLPH. If you can’t see by now that he’s the reason we’re playing .500 baseball, you will after the Braves and Rockies series.
  5. Micalpalyn May 21, 2008 at 4:19 pm
    I disagree with you jimmy.

    But there is a strong vein of truth there. Small ball is not the issue, AND as you said pitching is not the issue. But in sports there is that game of inches cliche…and the Mets need an inch.

    Joe: Are you aware your twin brother posted on another Metsblog site? Again your sentiments have a nice ring but i think you are stepping out on a ledge….you just dont realize it.

    As I posted above in (using DW’s OWN comment) this team is tooo good to be struggling. NOW ( contorting Dude’s comment): would firing Willie get that run underway? would backman as an interim manager warrant a look?

  6. isuzudude May 21, 2008 at 5:00 pm
    Jimmy, you have already made it abundantly clear that you think the train wreck known as the Mets is entirely Willie Randolph’s fault. You really can start to ease off the throttle, now.

    Your perception about small ball is misguided. I’m sure whatever argument I present to you will be dismissed on principle because you think you’re always right, so I don’t even know why I’m wasting my time. But allow me to explain. You say that Willie needs to use small ball tactics whenever it’s realized that the Mets offense is going to struggle in a particular game. And you know, that’s all fine and good, as long as the Mets are still within a run or two in the late innings. However, you can’t start out a game ASSUMING the offense is going to struggle…instead, you need to have faith that the Mets will swing the bats well (like at Yankee Stadium) and get a lot of runs on the board early to chase the opposing starting pitcher and build a nice lead. I can see playing small ball, getting Reyes to bunt for a single, swipe a base, get sacrificed to 3rd, and score on a sac fly, is necessary against a starting pitcher who you feel is going to be tough to score upon in a game – games where you’re expecting a pitcher’s duel. But in yesterday’s doubleheader, the Mets were facing Tom Glavine and Jorge Campillo, not potential 20-game winners by any stretch. So in my mind there’s nothing wrong with playing big-boy baseball and trying to get some gap shots and home runs early on. And in game 1 the offense looked liked it was poised for a big game, yet the wheels fell off and by the time you knew it was becoming a struggle, the Braves were up big and the Mets needed more than just a “manufactured” run. What good is it, then, to lay down a bunch of bunt attempts and go for some hit and runs? With the way the offense was performing, bunters would have been thrown out and hit and runs would have resulted in strike ’em out/throw ’em outs. Small ball tactics have their place, but you can’t always run to that argument after every loss and say the Mets would have been better off doing it your way. Because yesterday, small ball was not saving the offense, nor was it preventing the pitching staff from giving up 12 runs. And you’re not scoring 12 runs with a bunch of bunts and productive outs.

    And by the way, Heilman came in to a 4-1 game in the 7th inning with nobody on base, not exactly what you would call a “tight situation.” If you don’t use Heilman in that spot, when the heck do you use him at all?

    Joe makes some great points, both here at at metsblog. Willie is not to blame for Pedro and El Duque getting hurt. He’s not to blame for Castillo’s gimpy knees. He’s not to blame for Delgado being washed up. He may be to blame for sticking with Heilman as a set-up man for too long, but he’s not to blame with why Heilman is struggling so much to being with. He’s not to blame for Perez’ inconsistencies. And no matter how much you may try to speculate, Willie is not to blame for Reyes’ lapses in focus and prolonged cold streaks. Yet all of these things are key reasons for why the Mets have been so mediocre in 2008. So if you continue to do nothing but point fingers at Randolph for the Mets’ struggles, you’re clearly coming off as a biased and misinformed critic who would rather see Willie get fired than see the Mets get better.

  7. sincekindergarten May 21, 2008 at 5:15 pm
    Mic and ID, I agree with the two of you. I really don’t know what to think about the Mets. Yes, it’s everybody’s fault–and the two people that were the architects of this charlie-foxtrot don’t seem to be being held accountable–Omar and Fred/Jeff Wilpon. They were the ones that resigned Luis Castillo and his balky knees, they were the ones that resigned Guillermo “Mogas” Mota last year, after he had been caught using ‘roids.

    What to do? I don’t know. I’m frustrated, just like the rest of you. What’s the most likely outcome? Willie’s neck is vulnerable. Should it be? Well, he certainly doesn’t have control over injuries or slumps, does he? Would it be better if Howard Johnson or Rick Peterson went? After all, one is the hitting coach, and the other is the pitching coach . . .

    I don’t know. All I do know is that it’s not a feeling I like.

  8. joe May 21, 2008 at 5:21 pm
    Mic: I’m going to find out who that guy impersonating me on MetsBlog is and give him a piece of my mind!

    Jimmy: we understand your frustration, but I agree I think the small-ball thing might be a bit off. The Mets are 4th in the NL in sacrifice hits with 23, and are fifth in the league in stolen bases with 40. Last year they led all of MLB with 200 SBs — 60 more than the team that came in second — and were second in sacrifices.They may not be the ’85 Cardinals but they do play in a traditional “National League” style.

    Personally I think their problem has more to do with being patient at the plate and taking pitches — the same issue they had this time last year. And by “they”, I point directly at Reyes, Beltran, Wright, and Delgado.

  9. JIMMYJ723 May 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm
    Joe: Maybe I haven’t done a good job of explination what I mean by “small ball.” I don’t just mean stealing bases or bunting. What I want the Mets to do, is knock SP’s out of the game early by making them work. I want our outs to be productive by advancing runners along. I want Willie to call more hit and runs. I want to KEEP THE PRESSURE ON THE OTHER TEAM. Maybe it’s just my frustrated preception of things but it seems to me like other teams are keeping the pressure on us and we are just waiting around for the big hit.

    Isuzudude: Of course I think I’m always right. It’s my OPINION. I’m not in front of the UN stating my case for war. I’m talking about why I think my Mets are underperforming. I’m not going to restate everythign I’ve said but have I been wrong yet? I feel like I’m watching the same movie over and over. The same one we watched after the all-star game last year. It doesn’t end well.

    You tell me you can’t go into a game assuming the offense is going to struggle. If you watched yesterday’s game, you saw that’s EXACTLY what Bobby Cox did. They made John Maine work and work and work some more. For the first time all season he gave up more than 2 ERs and was taken out in the 4th inning. That’s a manager that knows what he’s doing.

  10. isuzudude May 21, 2008 at 8:43 pm
    Have you been wrong yet? Yes, Jim, you have. You stated the Mets don’t take walks, but they rank 3rd in the NL in drawing walks. You stated the Mets never attempt bunts for hits, but have attempted and succeeded a number of times since that comment. You say Willie never implements “small ball” tactics in games, but I have cited specific examples to the contrary. And in case you need reinforcement, here are a few more examples from Wednesday night’s loss:
    1. Endy Chavez attempted a sac bunt in the 1st inning w/Reyes on 1st.
    2. The hit and run was on with Wright at the plate and Reyes on 1st in the 1st inning. Wright swung and missed, Reyes stole second base.
    3. After a Reyes SB, Chavez pulled a ball to the right side to advance Reyes to 3rd in the 3rd inning (and Reyes eventually scored on a Wright single).

    Jim, you make it sound entirely too easy to work deep counts. That philosophy only works when the opposing pitcher is not throwing strikes. Maine on Tuesday and Pelfrey last night were wild, allowing the Braves to take pitches out of the zone and elevate the pitchers’ pitch counts. Kudos to them. However, of 82 pitches Glavine threw in game 1 of the DH, 54 were for strikes (or 66%). In game 2, of 78 pitches by Campillo, 54 were strikes (69%). And last night, of 101 pitches by Jurrjens, 63 were strikes (62%). The point is, it is virtually impossible for Mets hitters to work deep counts and elevate the opposing pitchers’ pitch count when they are throwing three-quarters of their pitches for strikes. And it’s not as if the Mets are swinging at garbage in the dirt or junk over their head. As a manager, Willie can tell his offense to be patient at the plate until he’s out of breath…it all means didly squat if the opposing pitcher isn’t willing to throw balls. Not to mention I think you give WAY too much credit to the manager for whether or not an offense is able to work deep counts. It’s not like he’s in a batter’s ear during every at-bat telling him to swing or lay off. That stuff is up to the individual batter, not the manager. The manager should teach the offense to be patient and disciplined at the plate all he wants, but he is not at fault when batters don’t follow that philosophy when they’re in the batters box. Seeing how the Mets draw as many walks as they do, I’m of the presumption that they ARE patient at the plate when a pitcher is showing signs of wildness, and so there is another strike against Randolph refuted using simple statistics and proper logic. What else you got?

  11. SNK May 21, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with most of what you said. I too find myself a bit lost right now as to how to feel about the Mets – they have been beyond frustrating for quite some time now and it’s just downright bizarre how they’ve been performing.

    The strangest thing is that the team is anything but mediocre. Seriously, they look like world beaters one day and a bunch of little leaguers the next – I can’t remember the last time I watched a game and actually thought they looked mediocre. Yes, the end result is a mediocre record but the games themselves have been completely Jekyll and Hyde.

    None of this has anything to do with Willie except that he’s the easiest change to make. But I’m so sick of hearing the same tired arguments as to why he should be fired that I almost wish it happened already. Would be interesting to see who would replace him, however, as I have yet to hear a candidate I’d look forward to welcoming in.

    This team just seems snakebitten – they look like they’ve angered the baseball gods. I’m running out of practical explanations, so I’ll just say they are paying for Trachsel’s amazing W-L record in 2006 despite horrendous peripherals. Maybe they shouldn’t have won that many games that year…who knows…

  12. JIMMYJ723 May 21, 2008 at 11:17 pm
    I have neither the patience, motivation, nor resources to confront that argument. Your right. I’ll stop complaining about Willie Randolph. I’ll let the team do the talking for me. Tonight they said, 11-4 Atlanta beatdown. I wonder what those crazy kids will say next?
  13. joe May 21, 2008 at 11:26 pm
    Jimmy, understood now on the small ball opinion. And I’m in your corner re: the patience at the plate and working the pitcher.

    Isuzudude, I have to disagree with you on the Campillo game — many of his “strikes” were the result of swings and misses at pitches off the plate. The Mets as a team were not patient at all, which is particularly disconcerting considering that they had never seen Campillo before.

    There is no mystery as to why the Mets are forever befuddled by pitchers they’ve never seen before — they don’t take enough pitches to get a good look at them.

    Ted Williams thought it imperative to take at least one pitch from a pitcher to “get an idea”. There’s more to it than that but you can read The Science of Hitting to get the detail. But my point is that it is a sound philosophy practiced by most of the best hitters and it’s something many Mets rarely do.

  14. sincekindergarten May 22, 2008 at 4:56 am
    Something that I’ve said on here is coming back right now:

    The pendulum always swings back.

    The problem is, right now, that it’s pretty far to one side or the other, and we want it to be heading towards the opposite side.

    This team–the Braves–they’re unstoppable at home, but their road record is of the stuff that prompts hair-pulling in Bobby Cox.

    There’s three teams in the NL East that are pretty evenly matched–the Braves, the Mets, and the Phillthies. We have to deal with this, and we, as fans, aren’t doing a good job of that right now. We want things done yesterday. Why? Because we’ve seen a team in NYC do exactly that in the late 90s, and it wasn’t the Mets.

    Just as the Braves were on the top of the division for 14 years, the pendulum swung back the other way. Is it still going that way? God Himself knows, but if this series were being held at Shea, with the Braves’ road record being what it is, today we might be on the verge of a Mets’ four-game sweep. (We probably would be on the verge of a four-game sweep of the Braves.)

    We don’t know what’s going to happen tonight with Santana–he could be knocked out early, or he could pitch the first Mets’ no-hitter. And we sure as all Hell don’t know what’s going to happen in Colorado this weekend–the Mets could sweep the Rox.

    I can’t put my finger on what’s with the team right now, but I’m kinda glad it’s happening now, and not in September, like last year.