Seven Steps to Salvage the Season

Stuart_Smalley.jpgThe Mets were 36-24 on June 9th 2007. From that point to the end of the regular season, the Mets went 52-50. Thus far this season, they are 31-34. So, over the last 167 games, the team is 83-84. Last year was last year, and a different club, but the changes made to the roster have made the team worse rather than better.

Looking at the personality of the fightin’ Phils, the chance of a collapse in September in Philadelphia to boost the Mets into first doesn’t seem likely. However, all is not lost. The wild card is certainly within reach, as no one in the NL is head and shoulders above anyone else — particularly now that the Cardinals and Cubs have both lost their best hitters. The Mets have zero chance of winning 90 games, but there’s an outside possibility they won’t have to. If they’re really lucky, this season could turn into something like what happened in 1973, when they won the division with an 82-80 record. The Mets won’t win the NL East with 82 wins, but they might sneak into the postseason with 87. They’d have to 56-41 the rest of the way to get there — a tall order, but more realistic than playing .600 ball. To pull this off, however, changes have to be made, immediately. Luckily, there is a seven-step program that can improve the team.

1. Fire Tony Bernazard and Rick Peterson.

Omar Minaya came in to Flushing telling everyone the Mets would get younger and more athletic, and follow the Braves’ model of building the big league team from within. Since Bernazard became his righthand man, those concepts went straight out the window. The Wilpons should fire Minaya’s top man as a message to get back to the original game plan.

Peterson’s oil paintings and auras and other beatnik philosophies have grown tired. It’s now clear that he was not a genius in Oakland, but lucky to have talented and healthy arms around him. Few Mets pitchers listen to him, and the one that does is Oliver Perez — ’nuff said.

2. Demote Howard Johnson to first-base coach, re-hire Rick Down (if he’ll come back). Let Willie hire a pitching coach of his choice.

I’ll admit I was 100% behind the Rick Down firing last year. In hindsight, it was a poor move to take away the one guy Willie handpicked for his coaching staff. It’s time to give Willie some control, and see what he does with it. He has more World Series rings than anyone in the Mets organization — players and front office included. Keep HoJo around as he’s done nothing wrong, and appears to have a positive effect on David Wright and other young players. Tom Nieto can go back to the bullpen.

3. Bench the next star player who doesn’t hustle, on the spot.

Doesn’t matter if it’s David Wright, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, or whomever. Willie Randolph must take a page from Charlie Manuel’s book and make an example of one of the stars, to show the team he is the boss.

4. Demote Oliver Perez and Aaron Heilman to the minors. Promote Tony Armas, Jr. and either Eddie Kunz or Carlos Muniz.

Give Ollie and Aaron a chance to work with a REAL pitching coach in NOLA — Dan Warthen. Consider moving Heilman back to the starting rotation while he’s down there, and Brian Stokes back to the bullpen.

Armas is pitching as well as he has in five years, so slot him into Perez’s spot until he fails. Muniz or Kunz should be tested immediately in 6th inning situations, with that spot becoming a revolving door of unknown, unscouted arms. As soon as someone is getting overexposed, replace him with someone else from the farm. Rinse and repeat.

5. Make a deal for Kevin Millar.

Now that Bernazard is out of the way, do the right thing and get someone with fire in his belly — and World Series rings — on the roster. Millar should come relatively cheap, and is likely the best the Mets can trade for with the limited chips they have at their disposal.

6. Call up Mike Carp, play him immediately.

The guy is hitting .360 down in AA — obviously, he’s doing something right. Start him at first base for a few days, then in left field. With Millar and Carp on the roster, Delgado must now earn his playing time. Look at how Delgado’s batting average soared after being “rested” two weeks ago; it’s clear he can’t be allowed to get too comfortable. Of course, there’s no guarantee Carp will succeed, but we’ll never know until he’s given the chance.

7. Try to make a deal for a bat and personality to protect Carlos Beltran.

Beltran might be able to carry a club when he gets on a hot streak, but he is otherwise a complimentary player and not built for superstardom in NYC. Delgado was his protector in 2006, and Moises Alou should have been this year. With Alou back on the DL, the Mets have to get someone else in to fill the role. Maybe it’s Junior Griffey, or Ivan Rodriguez, or Travis Hafner. It has to be someone obtainable, and any of those three could be pried away if the Mets are creative. The Tigers, for example, have soured on I-Rod and have moved Brandon Inge back behind the dish — maybe they’d be happy to get Brian Schneider. The Indians are looking to unload C.C. Sabathia and might not want to be strapped with the rest of Hafner’s huge contract. I’m not sure what it would take to get Griffey. Any of the three could be inserted into the #4 or #5 spot to take the pressure off Beltran. More importantly, the addition of any of those three individuals would immediately change the tone in the clubhouse and on the field.

These are big changes, for sure, but desperate times call for drastic measures. As currently constituted, the 2008 Mets will not “play meaningful games in September”. This has been a .500 club for over a full season, and has shown no signs of turning into a consistent winner. Sitting back and hoping that they’ll figure out a way to turn it around is not positive thinking — it’s borderline insane. As Einstein once pointed out, insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

It’s time to for a revamp.

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 June 13, 2008 at 4:24 pm
    I’m on board with this post. Not everything but i like the thoughts that have gone into it.
    btw: i think Del’s latest surge could find him a new home.
  2. isuzudude June 13, 2008 at 4:34 pm
    You know, I can’t say I’m 100% deadset against any of these ideas. #’s 1-3 are no-brainers, in my book. Just like with Bobby Valentine, who was and is still adored by many Met faithful, Peterson’s act is growing old. He may be very knowledgable and may have a great track record, but it’s become very evident that either pitchers just aren’t listening to him anymore, or his advice is not working. And giving Willie the reigns to select his own guy re-instills his confidence that ownership is behind him. Maybe he makes it easy and selects Warthren from AAA, who apparently looks like he deserves a promotion. Of course, it’s highly doubtful these coaching changes take place, because it appears Omar has the Wilpons in his back pocket and would win out a “loser gets fired” brawl between GM and manager. But your idea holds a lot of weight and would definitely put some fresh, energetic minds into the stale Met dugout.
    Perez has pitched like he deserves a demotion, but the guy is in the walk year of a contract. Sending him to AAA does nothing to help his trade value (while there’s still some left), and all but assures us that he’s not going to be back in ’09. If he really needs that much help, it’s time to ship him out for someone who will help the Mets beyond 2008. Which also opens up the rotation spot for Armas. Heilman certainly could use the trip to the minors, and maybe now is the time to gear him up for a renaissance to the rotation in ’09. However, I’d hate to see what happens next if he fails in that venture, also.
    I’m not crazy for Millar. He may have fire, but he’s also a soon-to-be 37 year old .250 hitter with decreasing ability to handle OF duties. I’d much rather focus on trading for YOUTH with the intentions of building around them instead of bringing in another aging vet hoping he can recapture his talent of yesteryear. If moves are to be made, it’s time to ditch Marlon Anderson, Fernando Tatis, and Moises Alou and bring up the “future:” Mike Carp, Dan Murphy, Nick Evans, and see if the rest of the Mets’ vets emmulate a bunch of upstart, hard-working rookies instead of the other way around. It’s also obvious Beltran needs the added protection in the lineup in order to compile the 40HR-100RBI seasons he’s capable of, so I’m for any trade that nets us a big bat. But more than likely that type of deal doesn’t get put together until the winter meetings or free agency period, which is why I’m beginning to think more and more that 2008 is a lost cause and that we need to shift our attention to 2009 now in order to successfully make the necessary changes to become the winning team we should be.
  3. Micalpalyn June 13, 2008 at 4:36 pm
    addendum: just read your Post at Metsblog.
    Great job!!! why didn’t you write that here? significance wise you presented a single bullet ‘ Why doesn’t Wille exert himself’ which has come to the fore.

    Perfectly presented is the benching (2 days?) of Del and the responding streak. Yet Del is back to starting and hitting 5th…(why?). I think exerting himself in the context of the BP and hitting failures this past week was warranted.

  4. joe June 13, 2008 at 4:49 pm
    Mic, thanks for the props. Anytime I can write something in 200 words or less it goes to MetsBlog. You and the other MT loyalists are a rare fine breed of people with the attention span to muddle through my longer ramblings.

    Isuzudude – I agree that I’d prefer to get someone younger and better than Millar. However, we have to be realistic, and the reality is, the Mets don’t have any chips to trade for anyone young and valuable. Millar, however, is obtainable, and as I mentioned owns World Series rings. That in itself is valuable — what position player on the current roster has a ring besides Castillo? You want to create a winning environment, you need to bring in winners who can show the others what it takes.

    I don’t think the Wilpons are ready to throw away this season, with Citi Field opening next year. They’ll do whatever they can to keep the Mets in the hunt. If not for the new stadium, I’d think the youngsters would already be up. Personally, though, I don’t believe they can do any worse. Look what Robby Cano and Wang did for he Yanks a few years ago, as was pointed out recently here.

  5. sincekindergarten June 13, 2008 at 5:48 pm
    Joe, I seem to remember that Omar said something about the possibility of going to AA to get a starter, if need be–and Jon Niese was mentioned by name, was he not? I can see trading Perez to whomever would take him (Texas, maybe? All depends how he pitches tonight) and bringing Armas up.

    And, as to the future of the season, I am still of multiple personalities. Part of me is thinking that the Mets could get the WC, seeing that a fair number of World Series participants (and winners) from the NL have been WC teams. Then, there’s part of me that says that my feeling of the beginning of the year, where the Mets will win the division in the last week of the season, is still valid. My crystal ball has developed a huge crack in it, and only works when it wants to.

    Right now, it says that Ollie’s going to express his “inner Sandy Koufax” and save Willie’s fourth point of contact for another day.

  6. Micalpalyn June 13, 2008 at 6:07 pm
    Joe: U deserve the props.

    Addressing the topic; I think Isuzu brings great arguement to the discussion. But gives me more cannon fodder to aim at Willie.

    a. Youth- whats the point willie wont play them. Mike Carp could be the next david Wright or Mike Jacobs. Last yr he was injured and regressed some. Similarly jacobs were doing great before his injury only tio bounce back strong in 2005 and get a cup of tea at Shea…an 11HR cup of tea in 50AB. But Willie scoffed at him as a future Met 1st baseman. I think Jeff Luria will not stop thanking Willie for his cheap 1st baseman, while he watches his debt paid by Jeff Wilpon. Lets cure that mistake with Carp. I like Omars options here…that either Carp, Danny Murphy or Nick Evans pays of at that position. Insert Millar here to mentor, PH and spot start.

    b. ditto for Kunz and Muniz. They should AT LEAST be LOOGYs or mop up options. Another point in SD Bud black a former starter used 3 relivers to get the Mets out in the 8th inning of one loss…Hmmm.

    c. Yes. I’d cut bait on Perez. Kudos to Omar for NOT giving him a long term deal in his walk yr based on good looking 2007 numbers. Again the pitching wars will heat up soon and Perez could be dangled. I think Chi or Mil are good fits for a lefty starter. I might look into a different #4 starter. maybe Nate robertson or Dontrelle, Could Heilman fetch Robertson or even Dontrelle at this point?)…

    c2: i think Many AL teams might look for a lafty masher at DH too…Oakland? CWS?

    d. Again the team is near . 500 they lost 6 games each by 1 or 2 runs when in a position to win! I was all over Willie’s neck when we were swept by Chi and Mil by big deficits. This team needs a spark…thats all. Whether its a new manager with a different rap, or a mike Carp.

  7. Micalpalyn June 13, 2008 at 6:21 pm
    Sk. starters are not a problem. right now its the pen. Figgy (ala Vargas) is an option to band aid the late innings right now.

    WC:- If not for a miracle surge from the Rockies, contributed to by a poor showing by the Mets in Denver late last yr THEY would have been the WC *(with 88 wins). Also note outside of Chi I dont see any runaway performers in the NL.

    Note to all, the Mets had Brandon Webb AND Dan Haren, beat AND shutout for that matter ….but for late BP meltdowns.

  8. Walnutz15 June 13, 2008 at 6:47 pm
    You forgot Step #8:

    Call Robinson Cancel back up to the Big League club.

    I’ll overlook this glaring mistake, Janish. Better not let it happen again.

    Thank God I’m headed out to my shore house — maybe some significant changes’ll be made by the start of next week.

    Enjoy, kiddies.

  9. isuzudude June 13, 2008 at 9:40 pm
    I got your Kevin Millar right here:

    It seems as though the Mets have acquired Trot Nixon, who has played on numerous playoff teams, including the 2004 Red Sox with the aforemention Kevin Millar, and is known as a “gamer.” I suspect he’ll get the majority of RF time in Church’s absense, with Chavez and Tatis platooning in LF until Alou comes back. Pretty good move by Omar, especially becauses he gives up nothing to obtain him. Boy, Arizona must really like Omar. First we get Duque for Julio, then Shawn Green for Evan MacLane, now Nixon for nothing. You gotta give Willie at least until the allstar break to get his “new” team headed in the right direction. If the team is still under .500 or more than 10 games out of the WC spot at that point, then give him the boot. He has 1 month starting now.

  10. joe June 14, 2008 at 1:43 am
    good call, ID
  11. Micalpalyn June 14, 2008 at 10:46 am
    Also valentin is near ready too.